Four EU countries have signed a contract with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca Plc to produce enough vaccine to potentially get rid of the coronavirus, the Italian health minister said.
Under the agreement, British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca will produce up to 400 million doses of the vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford. AstraZeneca said it would provide for no profit during the pandemic.
So far, the vaccine is still in clinical trials and is set to be completed this fall. If the trial results convince regulators the vaccine is safe and effective, the first doses will be available by the end of the year.
The deal is the first contract signed by Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA), a group formed by France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands to secure vaccine doses for all member states as soon as possible.
The alliance “will work together with the European Commission and other countries in Europe to ensure everybody across Europe is supplied with the vaccine,” the company’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, told journalists.
“We have a very self-sufficient supply chain for Europe” with manufacturers lined up in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Italy, among others, he said.
Though four nations signed the deal, the vaccines are for all EU member states, and the scheme allows other countries to join it under the same conditions, a source from the Italian health ministry told Reuters, adding China, Brazil, Japan and Russia have expressed interest.
The deal is the latest by AstraZeneca. It has forged several manufacturing deals globally to meet its target of producing two billion doses of the vaccine, including with two Bill Gates-backed ventures and a 1.2 billion-U.S. dollar agreement with the U.S. government.
Earlier this week, the company signed an agreement with American firm Emergent BioSolutions to be its manufacturing partner in the U.S.
“Many countries in the world have already secured vaccines, Europe has not yet. The rapid coordinated action of a group of member states will create added value for all EU citizens in this crisis,” Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said.
Reuters reported that the four nations that agreed the deal – France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands – will pay for the total amount of vaccines.