EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced plans Wednesday for a major contract extension for COVID-19 vaccines with Pfizer stretching to 2023.
In a sign of confidence in a company that has been a mainstay of Europe’s vaccination drive so far, von der Leyen said the EU will start negotiating to buy 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine through 2023.
Von der Leyen expressed full confidence in the technology used for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is different from the technology behind the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
“We need to focus on the technologies that have proven their worth,” von der Leyen said.
Pfizer-BioNTech plans to speed up the delivery of 50 million dozes in the second quarter of this year, on top of 200 million doses already earmarked for the bloc, she said. The deliveries will be especially welcomed by the EU’s 27 member nations considering supply delays and concerns over rare blood clots potentially linked to the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
Denmark, meanwhile, decided Wednesday not to resume use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after putting it on hold last month following reports of rare blood clots in some recipients. The bulk of the shots given in the Scandinavian country so far have been the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The European Commission said in a statement: “We keep all options open to be prepared for the next stages of the pandemic, for 2022 and beyond. We can, however, not comment on contractual issues.”
Pfizer can also deliver more doses to the U.S., chief executive officer Albert Bourla said on Tuesday.
.<a href=”https://twitter.com/pfizer?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Pfizer</a> has ramped up production of our <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> vaccine & can deliver 10% more doses to the US by the end of May than previously agreed (total of 220M) & supply the full 300M agreed on for the end of July two weeks early. In the fight against COVID-19, we’re in this together.
Meanwhile, Europe’s drug regulator said on Wednesday it expects to issue a recommendation on Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine next week after reports of “very rare cases of unusual blood clots” in the U.S.
The European Medicines Agency said in its statement that the company has decided to “proactively delay the rollout of the vaccine in the EU while investigations continue.”
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10:20 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | N.B. Premier Blaine Higgs talks about the decision to delay the reopening of the Atlantic bubble:
As of 10:40 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 1,082,727 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 79,267 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 23,420.
Ontario on Wednesday reported 4,156 new cases of COVID-19 and 28 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 1,877, with 642 patients listed as being in ICU due to COVID-19-related illness, the province reported.
In Atlantic Canada, the reopening of the regional travel bubble has been delayed to early May amid worries about case numbers and more transmissible variants of concern.
Newfoundland and Labrador was the first Atlantic province to provide updated COVID-19 figures on Wednesday, reporting three new cases, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 14.
In Quebec, Premier François Legault said he will extend a lockdown currently in effect in three Quebec regions for another week. The update came as the province reported 1,490 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 12 additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 643, with 150 people in intensive care.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 135 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and two additional deaths. Health officials in Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 288 new cases and two additional deaths as they tightened up some public health rules in the province.
Alberta on Tuesday reported 1,081 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths from the virus. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said there were 705 new cases involving more transmissible virus variants identified over the past day.
In British Columbia, the daily case count has dipped slightly to 873 after nearing 1,300 cases for several days in the last week. Premier John Horgan said any new restrictions would be discussed by members of the provincial cabinet on Wednesday and, if necessary, introduced on Thursday by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Across the North, health officials in Yukon recently reported one new case of COVID-19, prompting officials to issue exposure notices for three locations in Whitehorse.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 10:20 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
WATCH | Bolsonaro refuses to lock down as Brazil approaches grisly milestone:
As of early Wednesday morning, more than 137.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 2.9 million.
In the Americas, Brazil’s Senate on Tuesday launched an inquiry into President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic.
In Europe, German health authorities are recommending that people younger than 60 who have already received one shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine use a different vaccine for their second dose over concerns of blood clots.
Spain’s prime minister says his government is maintaining its goal of immunizing 70 per cent of the nation’s adult population, some 33 million people, by the end of the summer despite the delay in the European rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In the Asia-Pacific region, India’s worst-hit and richest state Maharashtra will impose stricter restrictions for 15 days on Wednesday in an effort to stem the surge of coronavirus infections that is threatening to overcome hospitals.
India on Wednesday reported over 180,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, about a third in Maharashtra state, and a total of 13.9 million cases in the pandemic.
In Africa, South Africa has suspended the rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine after U.S. federal health agencies recommended pausing its use because of rare cases of blood clots.
In the Middle East, Israel said it will reopen the country to vaccinated foreign tourists in May, more than a year after closing its borders to most international visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:35 a.m. ET