EU leaders attend the EU summit in Brussels, Belgium on Dec. 16, 2021. (European Union/handout via Xinhua)

BRUSSELS – Member states of the European Union (EU) will receive an additional 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the first three months of next year to hasten the pace against the fast-spreading Omicron variant, the European Commission said on Sunday.
 
"The Commission has today agreed with BioNTech-Pfizer to accelerate the delivery of its mRNA vaccine to member states, starting in a few weeks," it said in an announcement. 
 
Five million doses will be delivered in January, another five million in February, and an extra 10 million doses in March.
 
These doses come on top of the already scheduled 195 million doses from BioNTech-Pfizer, bringing the total number of deliveries in the first quarter to 215 million.
 
The announcement came after the European Commission announced on Thursday that Moderna had agreed to accelerate the delivery of its mRNA vaccine to EU countries.
 
"In view of the deteriorating epidemiological situation in the European Union over the past months, full vaccination and the roll-out of boosters remains one of the EU's top health priorities," the executive arm of the EU said.
 
Being the world's coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) epicenter for a second time, Europe is bracing for a new wave of the pandemic.
 
On December 16, 529 new Omicron cases were reported in the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA), contributing to an overall total of 3,158 cases caused by the variant, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said. (Xinhua)