AstraZeneca agrees to provide Europe with 400 million doses of COVIDE-19 vaccine


ROME (Reuters) – AstraZeneca Plc has signed a contract with European governments to provide the region with its potential coronavirus vaccine, the latest agreement from the British drug maker to commit to its drug to help fight the pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: Small bottles labelled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken on April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The contract is for up to 400 million doses of the vaccine, developed by Oxford University, the company said Saturday, adding that it was looking to expand the production of the vaccine, which it said it would provide for no profit during the pandemic.

Deliveries will begin by the end of 2020.

This is the first contract signed by the European Alliance for Inclusive Vaccines (IVA), a group formed by France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands to obtain vaccine doses for all Member States as soon as possible.

“This will allow hundreds of millions of people in Europe to have access to this vaccine, of course if it works and we will know by the end of the summer,” the company’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, told reporters. He said he was “hopeful” that it would work, based on the initial data.

The alliance “will work in collaboration with the European Commission and other European countries to ensure that everyone across Europe is supplied with the vaccine,” he said.

“We have a very self-sufficient supply chain for Europe” with manufacturers lined up in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Italy, among others, he said.

Vaccines are intended for all EU Member States. The four countries that agreed to the agreement will pay for the total amount, which has not been disclosed, and the scheme allows other countries to join it under the same conditions, a source from the Italian Ministry of Health said.

China, Brazil, Japan and Russia also expressed interest, he said.

The British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the start of phase III trials of the vaccine after studies have shown sufficient efficacy and safety, Soriot said.

At a meeting of EU health ministers on Friday, the IVA agreed to merge its activities with those of the European Commission, the German Health Ministry said.

The agreement is AstraZeneca’s latest agreement to promise to provide its vaccine to governments that have rushed to accept early purchases of promising coronavirus vaccination treatments.

It has global manufacturing agreements to meet its goal of producing 2 billion doses of the vaccine, including with two companies backed by Bill Gates and a $1.2 billion agreement with the U.S. government.

The deal will add an additional 100 million doses to the 2 billion already committed by the group, AstraZeneca said.

There is no vaccine or approved treatment for COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

“Many countries around the world have already obtained vaccines, Europe has not yet done so. The rapid coordinated action of a group of member states will create added value for all EU citizens in this crisis,” said Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza.

Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte in Rome and Rama Venkat in Bangalore; Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin, Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam and Ludwig Burger; written by Giulia Segreti; editing by David Holmes and Louise Heavens

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