EXCLUSIVE-EU seeks more Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, eyes deals with Valneva, Novavax

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EXCLUSIVE-EU seeks more Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, eyes deals with Valneva, Novavax

The European Union is in talks with Moderna to order more of its COVID-19 vaccine despite the company seeking a higher price, and is also trying to close COVID-19 vaccine deals with Valneva and Novavax, according to two EU officials and an internal document.

The bloc, with a population of nearly 450 million, has already booked a total of almost 2.3 billion doses from six vaccine makers. Most vaccines require two doses and only two vaccines have so far been authorised for use in the EU. U.S. biotech company Moderna produces one of the two shots approved by the EU – the other being from U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech – and has already signed a contract with the bloc to supply 160 million doses.

Despite deliveries not having started, the EU is already seeking additional doses from Moderna, according to an internal document prepared by the German health ministry and reviewed by Reuters, as the bloc scrambles to vaccinate as many people as possible amid a surge in infections. Two EU officials, on condition of anonymity, confirmed talks were under way with Moderna for additional doses, but one added that the price demanded by the company was twice as high as that agreed in the first contract.

That complicated negotiations, the official said. Neither official said how many doses the EU was seeking.

Moderna and the European Commission, which coordinates EU talks with vaccine makers, declined to comment. The EU sought a price of below $25 per dose for its first contract with Moderna, an EU negotiator told Reuters in November. The agreed price has not been disclosed.

Some EU countries have opted not to take up their share of Moderna vaccines under the first EU order, the German document says, despite each of the 27 EU states having the right to a portion of shots equal to its share of the EU population. It is not clear why some governments have done this.

The Moderna vaccine is the most expensive negotiated by the EU, with the company saying prior to its November deal with the bloc that it would sell shots for between $25 and $37 per dose, depending on the volumes ordered. The document says that Germany has secured 50 million doses, or almost a third of the Moderna shots booked so far by the EU, despite having a population of less than 20% of the EU’s total.

NEW DEALS The EU is also talking to French pharmaceuticals company Valneva about a potential deal for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, said two EU officials involved in the negotiations.

Millions of doses of the Valneva vaccine, which started Phase I and II clinical trials in December, have already been booked by Britain. Before applying for approval, vaccines must prove safe and effective in large-scale Phase III trials. Valneva did not respond to requests for comment and the European Commission declined to comment.

The EU is also close to signing a contract with U.S. company Novavax for up to 200 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, one of the EU officials said, adding that a deal was “imminent”. In December the European Commission said it had concluded preliminary talks with Novavax, a move that usually precedes the signing of a contract.

Novavax was not immediately available to comment.

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