AstraZeneca announced that it has reached an agreement with Europe's Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA) to supply up to 400 million doses of the University of Oxford's COVID-19 experimental vaccine, with deliveries starting by the end of this year. CEO Pascal Soriot remarked that "this agreement will ensure that hundreds of millions of Europeans have access to Oxford University’s vaccine following approval. With our European supply chain due to begin production soon, we hope to make the vaccine available widely and rapidly."
Under the agreement, AstraZeneca said that the IVA, spearheaded by Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, "aims to accelerate the supply of the vaccine and to make it available to other European countries that wish to participate in the initiative", adding that the IVA is committed to provide equitable access to all participating countries across Europe.
AstraZeneca said the deal is not expected to have any significant impact on its financial guidance for 2020, with costs to manufacture the vaccine expected to be offset by government funding.
Continuing to build supply chains
AstraZeneca indicated that it continues to build a number of supply chains in parallel across the world, and is seeking to expand manufacturing capacity further and is open to collaborating with other companies "in order to meet its commitment to support access to the vaccine at no profit during the pandemic." The cost is not that high on a per unit basis, but if we have to supply six to seven billion doses, there is no way for a company like ours on our own could cover the costs," Soriot said.
Last month, AstraZeneca agreed  to supply 400 million doses to the US and UK after reaching a licence agreement  with Oxford University In April 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. More recently, AstraZeneca said  it signed agreements with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and the Serum Institute of India in a move aimed at broadening global access to the vaccine. The company noted at the time 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."
Phase II/III testing
Meanwhile, Oxford recently announced it started recruiting for Phase II/III testing of AZD1222 in around 10,000 adults. 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."