The European Commission said on Tuesday that it has reached an agreement to buy up to 160 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from US-based Moderna (MRNA).
Moderna was the second company to announce promising results from large-scale, phase 3 trials of their messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine candidate. The biotech company, based in Cambridge Massachusetts, announced on 16 November that its vaccine had shown a 94.5% efficacy rate at preventing COVID-19.
The British government announced last week that it had reached a supply deal with Moderna for 5 million doses, which it expects to receive in spring 2021.
WATCH: Can these huge freezers help a vaccine rollout?
The European Commission’s contract with Moderna covers the initial supply of 80 million doses and the option to buy an extra 80 million.
That is the sixth vaccine-supply agreement signed by the EU, including 300 million doses from BioNTech/Pfizer and 225 million doses from Germany’s other leading vaccine biotech CureVac (CVAC). It also has agreements with AstraZeneca (AZN.L), Sanofi-GSK (SNY) and Janssen Pharmaceutica, pending regulatory approval of their vaccines.
The European Commission is buying the vaccine doses on behalf of all 27 EU member states, but the states can also decide if they want to donate the vaccine to lower and middle-income countries or to redirect it to other European countries.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recently said in an article for The Economist that world leaders needs to avoid ‘vaccine nationalism’ in the rush to get their own citizens protected from coronavirus.
Von der Leyen said on Tuesday that the Commission and EU countries have contributed €800m (£711m, $948m) to the COVAX initiative, which will go towards buying vaccines for poorer countries.
At the G20’s virtual conference last weekend, German chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her concern that rich nations were buying up vaccines in bilateral deals, and that poorer countries stand to miss out.
"We will now speak with GAVI [the global vaccine alliance] about when these negotiations will begin, because I am somewhat worried that nothing has been done on that yet," Merkel said.
The GAVI alliance said on Tuesday that hundreds of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca/University of Oxford vaccine had been secured for COVAX.
GAVI chief executive Seth Berkley said: “Positive early data on any vaccine candidate is welcome news – even more so when it concerns a vaccine candidate that can be transported and delivered via traditional refrigeration and storage methods, and the manufacturer has committed to supply on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the pandemic.”
WATCH: How AstraZeneca vaccine compares to Moderna, Pfizer