Hong Kong — BioNTech and Moderna could receive conditional EU marketing authorisation for their Covid-19 vaccines in the second half of December, according to the head of the EU’s executive arm, putting the bloc on track to start distributing the shots at the same time as the US.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is in daily contact with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the evaluation of the vaccines to “synchronise” assessment, said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. The EMA has said conditional approval could come as early as the second half of December, Von der Leyen told reporters after EU leaders discussed the Covid-19 pandemic via video conference on Thursday.

The speedy regulatory assessment comes as many European countries battle fierce new virus waves with the onset of colder weather, forcing governments to impose new lockdowns over weary populations. Faced with the prospects of another recession and uncertainty over how long the crisis may last, European leaders are increasingly counting on vaccines to provide relief.

The EU could pay more than $10bn to buy hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech as well as that of CureVac, according to an EU official. The price it agreed for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot is €15.50 per dose, less than the US is paying, the newswire said.

This week, Moderna said its Covid-19 vaccine was 94.5% effective in a preliminary analysis of a large late-stage clinical trial. Pfizer said its shot being developed with BioNTech was 95% effective in a final analysis of clinical-trial data and it’s applying to the FDA for emergency use authorisation.

The extraordinary results have sparked euphoria as the unprecedented compression of vaccine development timelines from years to months looks to be paying off.

The EU has confirmed a purchase of up to 300-million doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine and has also inked supply agreements with other front-runner candidates from AstraZeneca, Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, and CureVac.

In total, it’s pre-ordered some 1.2-billion doses, according to a database run by the Duke Global Health Innovation Centre. EU countries that opt to buy doses would be allocated the shots on a pro rata population basis.

Von der Leyen said the Brussels-based commission will “hopefully soon” reach a vaccine-supply agreement with Moderna and is also in talks with Novavax.



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