European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday brought forward the expected date for the European Union (EU) to vaccinate its 70 percent of adult population by nearly two months.
Speaking after visiting Pfizer's vaccine plant in Puurs, Belgium, where the main vaccine used so far in the EU has been produced, von der Leyen said the goal could be achieved by the end of July instead of late September as had been previously predicted.
"With the enormous efforts of BioNTech-Pfizer and the acceleration of their vaccine deliveries, I am now confident that we will have sufficient doses to vaccinate 70 percent of the adult population in the European Union already in July," she said, commending the two joint partners as "strong and reliable suppliers."
She expressed her satisfaction that "the EU's vaccination campaign is on track," passing the mark of 150 million doses delivered and 123 million vaccinations deployed. This made the bloc "among the top three in terms of COVID-19 vaccinations worldwide, after the United States and China."
She said her commission was close to concluding a deal with BioNTech and Pfizer to supply 1.8 billion additional vaccine doses for 2022 and 2023.
"We will conclude it in the next days. It will secure the doses necessary to give booster shots to increase our immunity against the virus. It will provide vaccines adapted to escape variants that no longer respond to the vaccines," she told a press conference.
Von der Leyen said the European Medicines Agency had approved the increase of the site's production capacity by a further 20 percent, making it one of the biggest vaccine fill and finish sites in Europe.
EU's health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Friday that almost a quarter of the adult population of the bloc has received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and over nine percent has been fully vaccinated.
With an average 2.5 million vaccinations per day across the EU in the last week, the number of people vaccinated - 24.5 percent with one dose and 9.1 percent with both - is twice that of a month ago, showing that the rollout of vaccinations was gaining pace, Kyriakides said.