Europe

EU to vaccinate 70% of adult population by July, says Von der Leyen

The EU plans to give 70% of the adult population at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July, the European Commission president has said.

Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would achieve population immunity earlier than expected, thanks to an increase in vaccine deliveries.

The original goal set out by the Commission was to reach the 70% target by the end of the summer, sometime in September.

Von der Leyen made the announcement while visiting the Pfizer manufacturing plant in Puurs, Belgium, alongside Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, and BioNTech co-founder Özlem Türeci.

Despite initial problems during the first quarter, when deliveries were irregular and production suffered from bottlenecks, the EU can now count on stable supplies that will continue to increase over the following months, the Commission president added.

The stage of the announcement appeared to be deliberate: Pfizer and BioNTech have become the largest and most reliable partner of the European Union in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this month, the Commission announced that the companies will provide the bloc with an extra 50 million doses during the second quarter, for a total of 250 million.

This additional batch was confirmed days after Johnson & Johnson decided to “proactively” suspend the rollout of its vaccine in Europe due to suspected cases of very rare blood clots. The rollout of that single dose vaccine is now expected to continue.

During the press conference that followed the plant tour, President von der Leyen repeatedly praised Pfizer and BioNTech, describing the partnership as a “very good experience that builds trust”.

“And on this trust we can also build the future,” she said, in a reference to the long-term contract the Commission is exploring to secure 1.8 billion doses for the coming years.

Von der Leyen said the EU will overcome the pandemic “by sticking together with science and manufacturing”.

In this collective effort, mRNA vaccines, like the Pfizer and Moderna jabs, will play a major role in the EU’s heath “preparedness” against new coronavirus variants, she added.

As of today, the European Union has received a total of 140.5 million doses. National governments have administered around 112 million.

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