TALLINN - The government on Tuesday green-lit Estonia joining a purchase pre-agreement with vaccine developer Pfizer/BioNTech for the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines.
Under the agreement with Pfizer/BioNTech, Estonia is to purchase vaccines for 300,000 people, which will enable to cover vaccine needs in at-risk groups, spokespeople for the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs told BNS.
"No COVID-19 vaccine has yet been granted sales permit in the European Union. Therefore, in order to diffuse risks, it is reasonable for us to join several purchase pre-agreements to make sure that COVID-19 vaccines reach the people of Estonia as quickly as possible," Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik said.
"In addition to agreements with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, we're also joining the agreement with Pfizer/BioNTech. On the basis of this agreement, we'll be able to purchase vaccines to some 300,000 people, which will enable to cover the need for vaccines in at-risk groups," he said.
Pfizer/BioNTech has initiated a rolling submission to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for its mRNA-based vaccine, and experts deem it likely that this vaccine may be among the first ones to see an EU marketing authorization assessment launched.
"The most complicated aspect of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is guaranteeing the low temperatures required by the developer during the vaccine's storage and transportation. We will take these requirements into account when making preparations for the organization of immunization," Kiik said.
The European Commission is in the final stages of negotiations also with pharmaceutical companies Curevac, Moderna and Novavax. All EU members states, Estonian included, joined the purchase pre-agreements with the companies AstraZeneca and Janssen Pharmaceutica. By covering vaccines based on various technologies and entering into purchase pre-agreements with several vaccine developers, the Commission seeks to mitigate risks to the greatest possible extent.
"We want to make the option of getting vaccinated available to at least half of Estonia's population while prioritizing at-risk groups. In the long-term perspective, the vaccine should be made available to everyone interested in it," Kiik said.
"While the development of vaccines and their launch in the market is being carried out at an accelerate pace, no concessions are made in terms of safety and efficiency. Strict requirements have been established in the European Union, which COVID-19 vaccines and the processes they must undergo before being launched must comply with," he added.
AstraZeneca and BioNTech/Pfizer have promised to place their vaccines on the market by the end of 2020, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Curevac, Moderna and Novavax in the first half of 2021, and Sanofi by the end of 2021. Actual market launch dates depend on the outcomes of ongoing trials.
The price of vaccines and agreements cannot be disclosed. Estonia will only become subject to payment obligations when the vaccines have been placed on the market and delivered to Estonia.
The main objectives of Estonia procuring COVID-19 vaccines and enabling immunization for its people is to protect most vulnerable groups with heightened risk of contracting the virus and people for whom the course of the disease may prove particularly dangerous. The state also seeks to protect workers providing vital services, reduce and prevent deaths caused by COVID-19 and also to grant an opportunity of getting immunized to those people who are not in any at-risk group, but still wish to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.