The European Union, grappling with the potential loss of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines, will buy an additional 50 million doses from BioNTech and Pfizer Inc. for the quarter, and is in talks to purchase up to 1.8 billion more doses over the next two years.
The plan marks a vote of confidence in the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, amid rising issues around the AstraZeneca PLC and J&J alternatives. In shaping the requirements for its new contract, the EU focused only on vaccines using new messenger-RNA technology, like those from BioNTech and Pfizer and Moderna Inc. The AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines use a different technology, known as viral vector. Production of these shots has proven difficult to scale up, and there are concerns about possible links to rare blood clots.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the new order would bring total deliveries of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine for the quarter to 250 million doses. The EU also expects 35 million doses from Moderna and 70 million doses from AstraZeneca during that period.
J&J had been expected to deliver 55 million doses during the quarter, but that is in question after the company said this week it would delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe due to potential safety concerns.
Similar worries about AstraZeneca’s vaccine have prompted countries in Europe and elsewhere to restrict its use to older people, and Denmark on Wednesday said it was suspending indefinitely use of the vaccine. Clotting concerns linked to Moderna’s vaccine have also arisen, but no country has limited its use.