Germany Looks Beyond EU Deal to Secure Covid Vaccine Doses

Germany is conducting direct negotiations with domestic Covid-19 vaccine developers to obtain more doses than would be allocated through the shared European Union plan, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

The country is in talks with BioNTech SE, Pfizer Inc.’s partner on the first vaccine approved in a Western country against the virus, as well as CureVac NV and IDT Biologika GmbH, Spahn said Wednesday. All three German companies received funding through a government program to support Covid vaccine development.

The 27-member EU has slipped behind the U.K. -- and most likely the U.S. -- on its timeline for vaccine approval. Britain’s regulator signed off Wednesday on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers will consider emergency authorization for the inoculation Dec. 10. European authorities have given themselves until Dec. 29 to review the application.

Germany Looks Beyond EU Deal to Secure Covid Vaccine Doses

Spahn has repeatedly highlighted the cooperative nature of the EU deal, saying that larger, more prosperous nations like France and Germany could have negotiated their own accords but chose a joint approach out of solidarity. Asked by a reporter whether its bilateral negotiations didn’t go against the spirit of that approach, Spahn said talks with BioNTech and CureVac started only after it was established that the companies would be able to meet the stated demand of all EU member countries.

“We can’t be prohibited forever from buying additional vaccine doses on our own,” he said.

BioNTech is in negotiations with more than two dozen countries, Chief Commercial Officer Sean Marett said. In Europe, executing the existing EU and U.K. deals is the priority.

The company may negotiate separately with Germany, “should we come to it,” Marett said. “The commission have been running this from the beginning, and we’re abiding by that.”

Among the other local vaccine makers, IDT isn’t in talks with the EU, leaving Germany free to conduct its own negotiations, Spahn said. IDT’s vaccine is based on work done previously on a vaccine candidate for Middle East respiratory syndrome, also caused by a coronavirus, and uses modified vaccinia Ankara virus as a vector. The company is set to begin mid-stage tests at the end of the year and has reserved 5 million doses for Germany, according to a statement last month.

European authorities have reached deals with six companies encompassing some 2 billion doses of vaccine, if all are successful. Germany’s side deals would bring its total number of available doses to 300 million, the Health Ministry said in an e-mailed statement, more than enough to inoculate its population of 83 million. That total includes both shots it obtains via the EU and shots it buys from the German drugmakers it supported, the ministry said.

Germany was instrumental in pushing through the bloc’s deal with BioNTech, Spahn said. The ministry didn’t say how many extra doses it’s getting beyond the EU allocation.

The German government granted 750 million euros ($905 million) to support vaccine development, with about half of that money going to BioNTech. CureVac secured as much as 252 million euros, while IDT Biologika was awarded 114 million euros.

A representatives for CureVac didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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