Following agreements with a number of entities, which includes two health organisations backed by Bill and Melinda Gates, pharma giant AstraZeneca has said that it has now managed to double its manufacturing capacity for its potential Covid-19 vaccine to 2 billion doses.
The company had said last week that its capacity of manufacturing the vaccine that it is currently developing in partnership with researchers at Oxford University was at 1 billion doses.
An agreement with Serum Institute of India has been achieved by the pharmaceutical giant for producing 1 billion doses for the low and middle income countries, the company said on Thursday. The company aims to provide the world with 400 million doses of the vaccine for Covid-19 before the end of 2020.
Agreements with two health organisations backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda worth a total of $750m was also struck by it, the company said. The process of finding manufacturing facilities for production and distribution of about 300 million doses of the vaccine will be helped in by those organizations – Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi vaccines alliance. The deliveries are expected to start by the end of the year.
Guaranteeing early supply of the vaccine to lower income countries is the aim of the new deals. Dozens of companies are in the race for development of a vaccine for covid-19 even though it is not yet clear whether those candidates will actually work against Covid-19.
Building supply chains for the potential vaccine at no profit was among the main aims of the latest agreements, said AstraZeneca, which overtook Royal Dutch Shell to become the UK’s largest company by market value last month. An agreement to supply about 300 million doses of the potential vaccine to the US has already been agreed to by the company along with a pledge to supply the UK with a further 100 million doses. The first delivery to these two countries is expected to happen in September.
“Our goal is not to leave anybody behind, and we’ll keep working very hard … to make sure this vaccine is rapidly and widely available across the world,” said Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of AstraZeneca.
In order to ensure that the vaccines that are manufactured through the new partnerships are initially distributed to the people who need it most, the World Health Organization will take charge of developing a “recommended allocation schemes”, said Richard Hatchett, chief executive of CEPI.
Hatchett explained that the targeted first users of such vaccines will potentially be healthcare workers and vulnerable people who are most at risk from Covid-19 which will comprise of the elderly and those suffer from underlying health conditions such as hypertension or diabetes. The allocation process would be “open and inclusive and transparent as WHO processes are,” he assured.
Currently the company is conducting human tests for the vaccine, called AZD1222, involving 10,000 adult volunteers. Those trials will come to a close in August and it is after that time that one would know whether the 4 vaccine is working or not, Soriot said.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)