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

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BRUSSELS/MILAN, Jan 11 (Reuters) – 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 firm 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 the price demanded by the company was twice as high as that agreed in the first contract.

That complicated the negotiations, the official said.

Neither official said how many doses the EU was seeking.

Moderna did not comment on the EU talks or pricing details.

The European Commission, which coordinates EU talks with vaccine makers, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The EU sought a price for its first contract with Moderna of below $25 per dose, 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 EU that it would sell shots for between $25 and $37 per dose, depending on the volumes ordered.

According to the document, 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 pharmaceutical firm Valneva about a potential deal for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, two EU officials involved in the negotiations said.

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 and the European Commission did not respond to requests for comment.

The EU is also close to signing a contract with U.S. firm Novavax for up to 200 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, one of the EU officials said, adding 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.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio in Brussels and Elvira Pollina in Milan. Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold and Andreas Rinke in Berlin and Matthis Blamont in Paris. Editing by Mark Potter)

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