4 major EU countries strike deal with UK drugmaker for vaccine supply for COVID-19

As the world searches for the cure to the dreaded coronavirus pandemic, pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical giant, AstraZeneca Plc has reached an agreement with 4 European Union countries to distribute coronavirus vaccine.

The Dutch government disclosed on Saturday that the UK drugmaker has struck a deal with Germany, France, Italy and Netherlands to provide 300 million to 400 million doses of a possible vaccine in stages starting from the end of 2020.

According to the Dutch Health Minister, Hugo de Jonge, ‘’This is an important step that we’re taking. A vaccine is crucial in combating the virus. The four countries have reported more than 665,000 confirmed cases of the disease.’’

The deal marks the first concrete result for the four-nation alliance created earlier this month to help ensure Europe secures adequate supplies of any COVID-19 vaccine. The group is working differently from the European Commission, the 27-nation EU’s executive arm, which is also seeking to strike vaccine accords with drugmakers that have sufficient production capacity in the bloc.

AstraZeneca had previously reached similar agreements with Britain, the Serum Institute of India, the United States, the coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The drugmaker wants to increase the manufacturing capacity of the vaccine the company is developing with Oxford University and is open to collaborating with other businesses. Total manufacturing capacity currently stands at 2 billion doses. The company will make the vaccine available at cost, with governments agreeing to help cover development and manufacturing.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said, “The cost is not that high on a per unit basis, but if we have to supply 6 to 7 billion doses, there is no way for a company like ours on our own could cover the costs.’’

Soriot said that the pharmaceutical firm is producing the vaccine as it goes through the testing process, so it can begin distribution immediately it proves effective. The company hopes to have 100 million doses available for the U.S. by the end of the year, 30 million for the U.K. and close to 100 million for the rest of Europe. This is as Europe wants to avoid falling behind US and China in getting supplies of any immunization shot.

Testing of the COVID-19 vaccine began in the UK in April with over 1,000 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55. Another round with 10,000 volunteers started in May.

Other companies including US biotech company, Moderna and French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi, are pursuing the creation of a coronavirus vaccine which is the only possible way to return safety to normal life in the post-COVID-19 world.

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