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AstraZeneca announces new partnerships to deliver two billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, with focus on developing countries

Published on 05/06/20 at 11:27am

As efforts to make an effective vaccine against COVID-19 available around the world continue to gather pace, AstraZeneca has revealed it has stepped up its own efforts to provide access to the candidate it is working on with the University of Oxford, sealing a series of World Health Organization-backed partnerships with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, and the Serum Institute of India (SII).

The company has signed a $750 million deal with CEPI and Gavi to scale up manufacturing and distribution to deliver an additional 300 million doses of the vaccine candidate, beginning before the end of this year. The deal was facilitated through the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, an initiative co-chaired by the WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In addition, it has forged a partnership with the SII to deliver one billion doses to low and middle incomes countries, with 400 million provided by the end of this year, assuaging concerns that such nations would be left struggling to access the therapy.

The vaccine candidate, known as AZD1222, is one of the leading hopes in the race to find a prophylactic therapy against the virus, though its efficacy is still being evaluated in clinical trials. This week, US President Donald Trump's initiative for funding promising COVID-19 candidates, known as Operation Warp Speed, selected AZ’s therapy as one of its finalists. The US Government has laid claim to 300 million doses of the vaccine in exchange for $1 billion to support its testing and manufacture.

“AstraZeneca and our other industry partners have a critical role to play in rapidly developing safe and effective vaccines and manufacturing the billions of doses needed to put a permanent end to the COVID-19 pandemic,” commented CEPI CEO Dr Richard Hatchett. “AstraZeneca is admirably committed to equitable global access for this vaccine, and 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, for the benefit of all.”

Gavi CEO Dr Seth Berkley added: “Today we have seen tremendous willingness from donor governments to support equitable access, particularly to developing countries – and it is incredibly heartening to see the private sector join in this effort. We encourage other vaccine manufacturers to work with us towards the shared global goal of finding solutions for this unprecedented pandemic.”  

AstraZeneca said in the announcement that it “recognises that the vaccine may not work” but is pushing ahead with development nonetheless and is currently scaling up its manufacturing capacity “at risk”.

Matt Fellows

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