Drugmaker AstraZeneca to make a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses if tests succeed

Drugmaker AstraZeneca to make a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses if tests succeed

FILE PHOTO: Small bottles labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe
FILE PHOTO: Small bottles labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

LONDON: AstraZeneca expects to be able to deliver a billion doses of a possible COVID-19 vaccine this year and next if tests are successful, adding on Thursday (May 21) it should shortly get results of an early stage clinical trial.

The British drugmaker said it had signed the first agreements to supply at least 400 million doses of the vaccine, which it is developing with Oxford University.

The US government has ordered 300 million doses of the potential COVID-19 vaccine and hopes first doses can be made available by October, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Thursday.

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

AstraZeneca said it recognised the vaccine might not work but if results from the early stage tests were positive, they would lead to late stage trials in several countries.

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.

READ: Thailand says it expects COVID-19 vaccine next year after tests in mice

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19 being tested by pharmaceutical giants across the world, with governments, drugmakers and researchers working on around 100 programmes. Experts predict a safe and effective means of preventing the disease could take 12 to 18 months to develop.

AstraZeneca also said in a statement that it had received more than US$1 billion from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for development, production and delivery of the potential vaccine.

It said the COVID-19 vaccine it was testing would include a planned late-stage clinical trial with 30,000 participants and a paediatric trial, adding that it planned to start supplying the vaccine in Britain in September.

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

US-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.

AstraZeneca said it was engaging with international bodies, including the World Health Organization, for the fair allocation and distribution of the potential vaccine around the world.

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Source: Reuters/dv