U.S. secures 300 million doses of potential AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

By Aakash B, Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton BENGALURU/LONDON (Reuters) - The United States has secured almost a third of the first one billion doses planned for AstraZeneca's experimental COVID-19 vaccine by pledging up to $1.2 billion, as world powers scramble for medicines to get their economies back to work. While not proven to be effective against the coronavirus, vaccines are seen by world leaders as the only real way to restart their stalled economies, and even to get an edge over global competitors

Reuters May 22, 2020 02:05:27 IST
U.S. secures 300 million doses of potential AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

US secures 300 million doses of potential AstraZeneca COVID19 vaccine

By Aakash B, Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton

BENGALURU/LONDON (Reuters) - The United States has secured almost a third of the first one billion doses planned for AstraZeneca's experimental COVID-19 vaccine by pledging up to $1.2 billion, as world powers scramble for medicines to get their economies back to work.

While not proven to be effective against the coronavirus, vaccines are seen by world leaders as the only real way to restart their stalled economies, and even to get an edge over global competitors.

After President Donald Trump demanded a vaccine, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agreed to provide up to $1.2 billion to accelerate British drugmaker AstraZeneca's vaccine development and secure 300 million doses for the United States.

"This contract with AstraZeneca is a major milestone in Operation Warp Speed's work toward a safe, effective, widely available vaccine by 2021," U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said.

The vaccine, previously known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and now as AZD1222, was developed by the University of Oxford and licensed to AstraZeneca. Immunity to the new coronavirus is uncertain and so the use of vaccines unclear.

The U.S. deal allows a late-stage - Phase III - clinical trial of the vaccine with 30,000 people in the United States.

Cambridge, England-based AstraZeneca said it had concluded agreements for at least 400 million doses of the vaccine and secured manufacturing capacity for 1 billion doses, with first deliveries due to begin in September.

Now the most valuable company on Britain's blue-chip FTSE 100 Index, it has already agreed to deliver 100 million doses to people in Britain, with 30 million as soon as September. Ministers have promised Britain will get first access to the vaccine.

VACCINE SCRAMBLE

With leaders across the world surveying some of the worst economic destruction since at least World War Two, and the deaths of more than 327,000, many are scrambling for a vaccine.

The U.S. government has already struck deals to support vaccine development with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) , Moderna and Sanofi , sparking fears the richest countries will be able to protect their citizens first.

Sanofi's chief angered the French government earlier this month when he said vaccine doses produced in the United States could go to U.S. patients first, given the country had supported the research financially.

"We have a lot of things happening on the vaccine front or the therapeutic front," Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about the AstraZenca announcement. "You're going to have a lot of big announcements over the next week or two," on therapeutics.

AstraZeneca said it was in talks with governments and partners around the world - such as the Serum Institute of India - to increase access and production, and is speaking to various organisations on the fair allocation and distribution of the vaccine.

"We would like to thank the U.S. and UK governments for their substantial support to accelerate the development and production of the vaccine," AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said.

The Serum Institute of India, the world's largest maker of vaccines by volume, has dedicated one of its facilities with a capacity to produce up to 400 million doses annually to producing the Oxford vaccine.

"We are scaling up on a conservative basis of about 4 to 5 million doses a month to begin with," Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla told Reuters, adding the company was in discussions with AstraZeneca.

COVID-19 PROTECTION?

A Phase I/II clinical trial of AZD1222 began last month to assess safety, immunogenicity and efficacy in over 1,000 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 55 years across several trial centres in southern England. Data from the trial is expected shortly.

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19.

Governments, drugmakers and researchers are working on around 100 programmes, and experts are predicting a safe, effective means of preventing the disease could take 12 to 18 months to develop.

Only a handful of the vaccines in development have advanced to human trials, an indicator of safety and efficacy, and the stage at which most fail.

"AstraZeneca recognises that the vaccine may not work but is committed to progressing the clinical program with speed and scaling up manufacturing at risk," it said.

Other drugmakers including Pfizer Inc , J&J and Sanofi are also in various stages of vaccine development.

U.S.-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals said on Wednesday its experimental vaccine produced protective antibodies and immune system responses in mice and guinea pigs.

And Moderna this week released positive data for its potential vaccine, which it said produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers.

(Reporting by Aakash Jagadeesh Babu in Bengaluru, Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt and Zeba Siddiqui in New Delhi; writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Alexander Smith, Jan Harvey, Mark Potter and Jonathan Oatis)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.