EU signs with AstraZeneca in its first advance purchase of coronavirus vaccine

AstraZeneca said Friday that it has reached an agreement with the European Commission to supply up to 400 million doses of the experimental AZD1222 coronavirus vaccine the company is co-developing with the University of Oxford. According to AstraZeneca, the deal builds on an existing agreement with Europe's Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA) spearheaded by Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, by giving "all EU member states the option to access the vaccine in an equitable manner at no profit during the pandemic." EU bloc members will also be able to redirect doses to other European countries.

Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for health, commented that "today, after weeks of negotiations, we have the first EU advance purchase agreement for a vaccine candidate."

Pascal Soriot, chief executive at the UK drugmaker, remarked that the deal "will ensure that millions of Europeans have access to AZD1222 following its approval." He added that with AstraZeneca's European supply chain "soon to be started, we hope to make the vaccine available widely and rapidly, with the first doses to be delivered by the end of 2020." Preliminary findings from a Phase I/II trial published recently in The Lancet showed that AZD1222 increased levels of both neutralising antibodies and T-cells that target the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Builds on IVA deal

In June, AstraZeneca struck a deal with the IVA to supply up to 400 million doses of AZD1222, with deliveries starting by the end of this year. AstraZeneca said at the time that the IVA "aims to accelerate the supply of the vaccine and to make it available to other European countries that wish to participate in the initiative."

Meanwhile, the European Commission has been holding discussions with other companies as well, including Pfizer, Moderna and CureVac, to buy their potential COVID-19 vaccines upfront. More recently, it concluded "exploratory talks" with Johnson & Johnson for an initial purchase of 200 million doses of its Ad26.COV2.S candidate, plus the possibility of buying another 200 million, as well as with Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline regarding a potential contract for 300 million doses of their potential vaccine against COVID-19.

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