The EU has approved US drugmaker Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, paving the way for its rollout on a continent in urgent need of more supply.
The decision follows a recommendation earlier on Wednesday by the European Medicines Agency, that the vaccine developed by Moderna should be authorised for use in the 27-member bloc.
Moderna’s vaccine is the second to be approved by the Amsterdam-based regulator after BioNTech/Pfizer’s jab late last year.
The EU has ordered 80m doses of the Moderna vaccine, with an option to double the amount. Moderna, which is based in Massachusetts, expects to be able to manufacture up to 1bn doses this year. The EU has ordered 300m doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.
“This vaccine provides us with another tool to overcome the current emergency,” said Emer Cooke, head of the EMA. “It is a testament to the efforts and commitment of all involved that we have this second positive vaccine recommendation just short of a year since the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organisation.”
Progress in inoculating the EU’s population has been slow so far, intensifying the pressure on governments to deliver more supply and eliminate bottlenecks. The EU allocates doses to member countries based on the size of their populations.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said that “we will have more than enough safe and effective vaccines for protecting all Europeans.”
The approval comes as infection rates across Europe have picked up in recent weeks, forcing countries such as Germany to extend their lockdowns.
The Moderna jab uses a novel type of technology known as mRNA that is delivered in tiny fatty particles, which are in short supply at the moment. The vaccine is Moderna’s first approved product, which it is selling at a higher price than rivals.
In a statement, the European Commission said Moderna would deliver the 160m doses by the third quarter of the year.
In the US, where regulators have already approved the injection, demand continues to outpace supply. Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to the US’s Operation Warp Speed, has said that scientists are considering halving doses in an effort to give more patients some measure of protection quickly, although a decision on whether to do so is not expected soon.
The price agreed with the EU is about €20 a dose, according to people familiar with the matter, higher than others agreed in forward-order deals negotiated by the bloc.
The Financial Times reported over the weekend that Moderna was among the drugmakers racing to secure a supply chain for the vaccine, especially for the molecules used to deliver the active ingredient of the vaccine, known as lipid nanoparticles.