Luxembourg receives first Moderna vaccines
Luxembourg received the first 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Monday morning, while an additional delivery of the BioNTech/Pfizer jab also arrived as the European Union ramps up its efforts to inoculate the bloc's population against Covid-19.
1,200 doses of the US-made vaccine were delivered to Luxembourg on 11 January following the approval last week by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Commission, the bloc's executive which is behind the joint procurement, Luxembourg's Health Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
Luxembourg is the first EU state to receive the Covid-19 vaccine from the US biotech company Moderna, the Health Ministry said, as the country's easing of virus restrictions comes into force.
An additional delivery of 4,875 doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine also arrived in the Grand Duchy on Monday as planned, the authorities confirmed.
To date, Luxembourg has reserved a total of 110,462 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 414,210 doses of BioNTech/Pfizer.
Via the European Commission's procurement scheme, the government has also ordered vaccines from other companies, such as the British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca, and US giant Johnson & Johnson, which are yet to be approved in the European Union.
At the end of last year, when only the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine had been approved for the European market, it emerged that Luxembourg would only be able to vaccinate around 6% of its population by the end of March.
Controversies as to the EU's procurement strategy and speed of approval emerged, with some countries, such as Germany and Denmark, putting through their own orders.
Luxembourg said at the time that it was in contact with BioNTech/Pfizer for additional orders, but has since dropped the plans after the EU finalised negotiations for an extra 300 million doses of the vaccine.
BioNTech and Pfizer on Monday announced they would ramp up production of their vaccine by more than 50% of current capacity to produce up to 2 billion shots this year.
The EU's Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides will send a letter to all EU Health Ministers inquiring whether they are conducting their own purchases, which is reportedly not legal under the joint procurement agreement, according to European media reports.
Moderna has the advantage that it can be stored at -20°C, and not -70°C as is the case with the BioNTech/Pizer vaccine.
BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna have similar efficacy rates from clinical trials of 95% and 94.1% respectively, and two doses need to be administered to reach that level of protection.
Both vaccines are based on the same new mRNA technology which is hailed as a breakthrough in medical science, as they teach the cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response and antibodies.