The European Commission on Wednesday said it has finalized an advance purchase agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech for the initial supply of 200 million doses of their experimental COVID-19 vaccine, with an option to request up to a 100 million more. The announcement comes days after the companies announced preliminary Phase III data showing that the mRNA-based candidate BNT162b2 was over 90% effective.
The contract is the latest struck by the EU with pharmaceutical companies to secure coronavirus vaccines following recent deals with AstraZeneca, a partnership between Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, and more recently with Johnson & Johnson. “With this fourth contract we are now consolidating an extremely solid vaccine candidate portfolio, most of them in advanced trials,” remarked European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, adding that “once authorized, they will be quickly deployed.” The EU has also concluded exploratory talks with CureVac and Moderna.
Lower cost per dose than US
The terms of the agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech are confidential, but one EU official said the bloc will initially pay less for BNT162b2 than the US. Specifically, the official said the EU will pay less than $19.50 per dose, adding that this partly reflects financial support given by the bloc, as well as up to €375 million ($442 million) in funding from Germany, for the vaccine’s development. The official said the EU had agreed a price that was closer to $20 than to $10, but declined to give a precise figure.
In July, the US government signed a nearly $2-billion contract with the companies for an initial order of 100 million doses, at a cost of $19.50 per dose. The US also has the option of buying another 500 million doses under terms to be negotiated separately, although the price it will pay is unclear.
No ‘copy-paste’ on liability terms
In regards to liability clauses in the EU contract with Pfizer and BioNTech, the official said conditions were different from those that the bloc had signed with other drugmakers, adding there was “no copy-paste” on liability terms from previous contracts. The official also indicated that the liability terms were different to what Pfizer had agreed to with the US government.
Meanwhile, Sanofi and partner GlaxoSmithKline have agreed a price of about €10 ($11.8) per dose of their experimental COVID-19 vaccine with the EU, and did not get any liability waiver, while AstraZeneca would pay claims only up to a certain threshold if something goes wrong with its vaccine candidate, in exchange for a price of €2.5 ($3) per dose, an official said in September.