The European Commission has approved a fifth contract with the European pharmaceutical company CureVac, which provides for the initial purchase of 225 million doses on behalf of all EU Member States, plus an option to request up to a further 180 million doses, to be supplied once a vaccine has proven to be safe and effective against COVID-19.
The contract with CureVac enlarges the already broad portfolio of vaccines to be produced in Europe. The EC says “this diversified vaccines portfolio will ensure Europe is well prepared for vaccination, once the vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective.
“Member States can also decide to donate the vaccine to lower and middle-income countries or to re-direct it to other European countries.”
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “A few days after our contract with BioNTech and Pfizer, I am delighted to announce a new agreement with a promising European company. The Commission has secured to date at least 1.2 billion doses and fulfils its commitment to ensuring equitable access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines not only for EU citizens but also for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Most of these vaccine candidates are in an advanced phase of clinical trials, hopefully authorisation will confirm these positive results, after which they will be quickly deployed and help us in overcoming the pandemic.”
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “With growing numbers of COVID patients across the EU, a safe and effective vaccine is more crucial than ever in putting behind us the pandemic. With this fifth vaccine advance purchase agreement, we are further expanding the possibilities that EU citizens and our economies can soon safely return to normality. It is yet another milestone in our EU Vaccines Strategy, and evidence of the benefits of working together in a genuine European Health Union.”
CureVac, a European company based in Germany, signed a €75 million loan with the European Investment Bank on 6 July for the development and large-scale production of vaccines, including CureVac’s vaccine candidate against COVID-19. CureVac is pioneering the development of a completely new class of vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA), transported into cells by lipid nanoparticles. The vaccine platform has been developed over the last decade. The basic principle is the use of this molecule as a data carrier for information, with the help of which the body itself can produce its own active substances to combat various diseases.
The Commission has taken a decision to support this vaccine based on a sound scientific assessment, the technology used, the company’s experience in vaccine development and its production capacity to supply the whole of the EU.
The European Commission presented on 17 June a plan to accelerate the development, manufacturing and deployment of effective and safe vaccines against COVID-19. In return for the right to buy a specified number of vaccine doses in a given timeframe, the Commission finances part of the upfront costs faced by vaccines producers in the form of Advance Purchase Agreements. Funding provided is considered as a down-payment on the vaccines that will actually be purchased by Member States.
Since the high cost and high failure rate make investing in a COVID-19 vaccine a high-risk decision for vaccine developers, these agreements will therefore allow investments to be made that otherwise might not happen.
Once vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective and have been granted market authorisation by the European Medicines Agency, they need to be quickly distributed and deployed across Europe. On 15 October, the Commission set out the key steps that Member States need to take to be fully prepared, which includes the development of national vaccination strategies. The Commission is putting in place a common reporting framework and a platform to monitor the effectiveness of national vaccine strategies.