The logo of AstraZeneca is seen on medication packages in a pharmacy in London (Reuters)
Pharma giant AstraZeneca struck a deal Saturday with Europe's Inclusive Vaccines Alliance to supply up to 400 million doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, as efforts to boost manufacturing capacity continue at pace.
The alliance, which was forged by Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands to speed up production of a vaccine, is set to take delivery of the vaccine being tested by the University of Oxford by the end of 2020. The agreement with AstraZeneca also aims to make the vaccine available to other European countries that wish to take part.
The cost is expected to be offset by funding from the governments.
``This agreement will ensure that hundreds of millions of Europeans have access to Oxford University's vaccine following approval,'' AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said. ``With our European supply chain due to begin production soon, we hope to make the vaccine available widely and rapidly.''
The agreement is the latest in a series to make the vaccine _ even though it is not certain it will work. But so desperate is the need that scaling up of manufacturing continues despite the risk.
The Anglo-Swedish company recently completed similar agreements with Britain, the United States the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance for 700 million doses. A license also has been agreed with the Serum Institute of India for another 1 billion doses.
The vaccine was developed by Oxford University's Jenner Institute, working with the Oxford Vaccine Group.
Testing of the experimental COVID-19 vaccine began in healthy volunteers in Britain in April with over 1,000 people aged 18 to 55. Another round with 10,000 volunteers began last month.
Other companies, including Moderna and Sanofi, are racing to develop and produce a vaccine against the new coronavirus, a step experts say will be crucial to allowing countries to ease their lockdowns and restrictions on public life.