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By Francesco Guarascio
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union has agreed to pay a premium on new orders of COVID-19 vaccines because it is requiring tougher terms to be met, European officials said, as the bloc tries to protect supplies after a rocky start to its vaccination campaign.
The higher price is less than the United States has agreed to pay in its latest order in July.
On Sunday, the Financial Times reported the EU has agreed to pay Pfizer and BioNTech 19.5 euros ($23.1) for each of their COVID-19 shots under a contract signed in May for up to 1.8 billion doses, up from the 15.5 euros per dose under two initial supply contracts for a total of 600 million vaccines. This was in line with previous reports.
The price for Moderna shots went up to $25.5 a dose, the newspaper said, referring to a 300 million vaccine deal, up from $22.6 in its initial deal for 160 million jabs.
EU lawmaker Tiziana Beghin, a member of Italy's 5-star ruling party, said the EU was being been ripped off.
"It's inexplicable," she said.
Moderna's price is still at the lower end of the $25-$37 range indicated by the company last year, but Pfizer and BioNTech had previously said prices would be lower for bigger volume deals.
Others said there were good reasons to pay more and that circumstances had changed greatly from when initial deals were struck with drugmakers last year.
France's European affairs minister Clement Beaune told French radio RFI on Monday the likely higher prices were still under negotiation and were the result of stricter clauses on variants, production and deliveries.
One European official familiar with negotiations with vaccine makers said the value of the drugmakers' shots had risen since evidence had emerged of their efficacy and of the positive impact they had on helping the economy to recover from a pandemic-induced recession.
"Several factors played a role," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
All the vaccines used in Europe have been shown to have a beneficial impact, but those made by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, have faced restrictions on their use in the EU because of concerns they can in rare instances lead to blood clots.
Those two vaccine makers have also suffered supply problems, which in the case of AstraZeneca have led to legal challenges by the EU.
While the bargaining power of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna has increased, additional EU demands are likely to raise the costs of making and delivering vaccines.
A spokesman for Pfizer declined to comment on the European prices, but said the latest contract with the EU was different from the initial ones, including on matters concerning production and delivery.