The announcement came as delays or production problems for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and a British AstraZeneca vaccine sparked political uproar across the European Union. The EU’s vaccination effort in 27 countries has struggled to accelerate, as more contagious virus variants spread rapidly and COVID-19-related deaths rise again.
According to Thomas Cueni, director of the International Federation of Vaccine Manufacturers, 76% of the world’s main vaccine manufacturing capacity is in Europe.
“We are keenly aware that the earlier the vaccine doses are available, the more lives can be saved,” Paul Hudson, CEO of Sanofi, said in a statement.
The deal was announced against a backdrop of national soul-searching over the failure of French pharmaceutical heavyweights Sanofi and the Institut Pasteur to produce a COVID-19 vaccine so far, and after Sanofi has faced a recent strike by French unions for job cuts.
So far, regulators in the European Union have approved the use of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The EU regulatory agency is expected to review the approval of the vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford on Friday.
Sanofi continues its COVID-19 vaccination efforts, including a highly anticipated candidate developed with UK partner GlaxoSmithKline. Sanofi has said it will begin a new Phase 2 trial next month. The two companies said last month that their vaccine would not be ready until the end of 2021 because the vaccine’s efficacy in the elderly needs to be improved.
Producing the huge volume of vaccines needed in the short term has been a challenge for drugmakers around the world, but sharing vaccine production from one company to another is a challenge. The multiple types of COVID-19 vaccines used in different countries require different technologies, raw materials, equipment and expertise.
AP medical editor Maria Cheng contributed.
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