Belgium to decide on purchase of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine next week
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Belgium to decide on purchase of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine next week

Credit: Belga

The decision about whether or not Belgium will order Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine will likely be made next week, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told the Parliamentary Committee on Public Health on Tuesday.

Placing the order is done through the European Commission, which is set to approve a purchase contract for 200 million doses, plus an option for a further 100 million doses, on Wednesday.

An agreement in principle had already been reached, but it has yet to be formally approved. Over the course of next week, Belgium will then have to decide whether it wants to subscribe to these vaccines.

“Negotiations between Pfizer and the European Commission are still ongoing. On Friday, we will normally receive information from the Commission, and then we will have five working days to decide if we also want to order vaccines via the EU contracts,” Vandenbroucke said.

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US pharmaceutical company Pfizer released results of its tests with a coronavirus candidate vaccine on Monday, faster than expected. The results are considered encouraging, with 90% efficacy in preventing Covid-19.

“Belgium, through the European Commission, has already registered for the AstraZeneca and Johnson&Johnson vaccines,” said Vandenbroucke. “Additionally, there is already a contract between the Commission and Sanofi-GSK on which we can place an order.”

The Commission does not yet have an agreement with Pfizer, but that could possibly evolve quickly, according to him. “The expert committee of the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP) will prepare an advice to the ministers by Monday.”

Pfizer hopes to deliver 1.3 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021. “Two shots per person are needed, so that will be for 650 million people,” Vandenbroucke said. “There are ten times as many of us on the planet.”

However, Vandenbroucke also warned that several steps still have to be taken, such as the vaccine’s approval and production. “These are very complex issues,” he said. “All products still need to be authorised by the European Medicines Agency. But scientifically, this is all very promising.”

Update: European Commission President von der Leyen announced today (10 November) that the Commission at its weekly College meeting tomorrow will authorise a contract for up to 300 million doses of the vaccine developed by German company BioNTech and Pfizer.

“This is the most promising vaccine so far,” she wrote. “This will be the fourth contract with a pharmaceutical company to buy vaccines. And more will come. Because we need to have a broad portfolio of vaccines based on different technologies.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times