ROME (Reuters) – British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc said on Saturday it had signed a contract with Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands to supply Europe with a coronavirus vaccine, with deliveries starting in late 2020.
The contract covers up to 400 million doses of the vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, the company said, adding that it was seeking to expand the production of the vaccine, which it has pledged to provide without profit during the pandemic.
“Our European supply chain is expected to start production
soon, we hope to make the vaccine available widely and quickly,” Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said in a statement.
The trial phase of the vaccine is already advanced and is expected to be completed in the autumn, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a Facebook post.
AstraZeneca has entered into global manufacturing agreements to achieve 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.
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 German Health Minister Jens Spahn.
The European Commission received a mandate from EU governments on Friday to negotiate early purchases of promising vaccines against coronavirus, the EU’s top health official said, but it was unclear whether there would be enough money available.
Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte in ROME, Rama Venkat in BANGALORE, additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in BERLIN, writing by Giulia Segreti; editing by John Stonestreet and Louise Heavens
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