The European Union has formally authorized a fourth contract with the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and their German lab partner BioNTech to procure up to 300 million doses of their candidate coronavirus vaccine, should it be proven to be safe and effective against the virus.
"In the wake of Monday's promising announcement by BioNTech and Pfizer on the prospects for their vaccine, I'm very happy to announce today's agreement ... to purchase 300 million doses," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement on Wednesday.
Pfizer announced Monday that an early look at data from its coronavirus vaccine shows it is more than 90% effective -- a much better than expected efficacy if the trend continues.
The company's CEO's Albert Bourla called it "the greatest medical advance" in the last 100 years.
According to BioNTech, the EU contract will guarantee the supply of 200 million doses, with an option to procure an additional 100 million doses. The pharmaceutical company says it expects deliveries to begin by the end of 2020, pending approval of the vaccine by the European Medical Agency.
"As a company founded in the heart of Europe, we are looking forward to supplying millions of people upon regulatory approval," BioNTech's CEO Ugur Sahin said in a statement Wednesday.
"Our aim is to develop a safe and effective vaccine to contribute to bringing this pandemic to an end. Only through joint efforts will we be able to do so," Sahin added.
The vaccine uses never-before-approved technology called messenger RNA, or mRNA, to spark an immune response in people who are vaccinated.
On Tuesday, Sahin said on a call with reporters that said BioNTech's goal, in cooperation with Pfizer, is to ramp up production of their vaccine candidate in the hopes of manufacture up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021, if it receives authorization.
BioNTech and Pfizer plan to ask the US Food and Drug Administration to authorize emergency use of the vaccine, with that request coming perhaps as early as next week, he said.