AstraZeneca targeting over 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses after latest deals

AstraZeneca on Thursday said it signed agreements with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and the Serum Institute of India (SII) in a move aimed at broadening global access to an experimental COVID-19 vaccine being developed at the University of Oxford. The company noted that it is building a "number of supply chains in parallel across the world…at no profit during the pandemic, and has so far secured manufacturing capacity for 2 billion doses of the vaccine."

The deals include a $750-million agreement with CEPI and Gavi to support the manufacturing, procurement and distribution of 300 million doses of AZD1222, with delivery to begin by year's end. CEPI said the doses would be "ringfenced" for the so-called COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility, if the vaccine is found to be safe and effective. Richard Hatchett, chief executive at CEPI, said "this partnership demonstrates how the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility will bring the private, public and third sectors together to make COVID-19 vaccines available to those who need them most."

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca also reached a licensing agreement with SII to supply 1 billion doses for low and middle-income countries, with a commitment to provide 400 million before the end of 2020.

Ramping up global supply

CEO Pascal Soriot said the new agreements "[mark] an important step in helping us supply hundreds of millions of people around the world, including to those in countries with the lowest means."

AstraZeneca recently agreed to supply 400 million doses to the US and UK after reaching a licence agreement with Oxford University for its recombinant adenovirus vaccine candidate AZD1222, formerly known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. The US deal in particular, reached late last month, calls for the company to receive up to $1.2 billion in support to provide the country with at least 300 million doses of AZD1222 starting as early as October.

Phase II/III testing underway

Meanwhile, Oxford recently announced it started recruiting for Phase II/III testing of AZD1222 in up to 10,260 participants, including a "small number" of older adults aged between 56 and 69, and those over 70, as well as children between five and 12 years of age. Other late-stage trials are due to begin in a number of countries.

AstraZeneca said that even though the vaccine may ultimately not work, the company is nevertheless "committed to progressing the clinical programme with speed and scaling up manufacturing at risk." One of the senior researchers involved in evaluating AZD1222 recently suggested that declining coronavirus transmission rates in the UK leave the trial of the vaccine with only a 50% chance of success.

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