(Adds German health minister)
Dec 16 (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Thursday it has reached an agreement with Moderna to rush deliveries of the U.S. company's COVID-19 vaccine to Germany and other European Union member states, as cases surge due to the Omicron variant.
Governments across Europe are struggling with soaring infections, with some regions imposing restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
"In view of the rapid increase in infections due to the Omicron variant, and the need to scale up vaccination, including boosting, the Commission is working with vaccine manufacturers to further accelerate the delivery of vaccine doses," the EC said.
Moderna expects to deliver 10 million doses of its mRNA-based vaccine to Germany in December, with delivery of 25 million extra doses expected in the first quarter of 2022, the European Union's executive body said in a statement https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_6932.
The news comes after Germany's health ministry on Wednesday warned that vaccine deliveries into Europe's largest economy would drop sharply in the first quarter of next year, but it denied a report that the shortfall would reach 60 million doses.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said he would like to secure 70 million shots in the first quarter, which will be needed for his strategy to both administer boosters to all those already vaccinated and raise the vaccination rate.
He said during a news conference that he hoped the strategy would help break the fourth wave of the pandemic driven by the Delta variant and build defences against the faster-spreading Omicron.
Germany also said it would spend an additional 2.2 billion euros ($2.49 billion) to procure COVID-19 vaccines, as shots are urgently needed amid the fourth wave of infections.
Further acceleration of deliveries by Moderna is being prepared for the first quarter of 2022, to the benefit of additional member states, the EC added. ($1 = 0.8826 euros)
(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka and Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel, Kirsten Donovan)
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