The Vaccine Alliance formed by France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands has signed a contract with British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to supply a coronavirus vaccine for Europe, Italy's Health Minister said on Saturday.
The contract is for 400 million doses of the vaccine which was developed at the University of Oxford. The researchers at AstraZeneca have started a large-scale clinical trial in which the vaccine will be tested on 10,000 people. An additional trial with 30,000 participants will take place later this month.
AstraZeneca has also secured a deal with two US government agencies and Vanderbilt University to create antibodies to be used to treat and prevent Covid-19, according to Bloomberg.
In a Facebook post Health Minister Roberto Speranza wrote that the trial is “already advanced” and expected to end in Autumn. He added that the first batch would be available by the end of 2020.
However, according to the Guardian, AstraZeneca’s CEO, Pascal Soriot, could not guarantee the vaccine would work and said several would be required, though he expressed confidence.
Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge wrote in a letter that all EU member states will have the opportunity to sign up to the deal, under the same conditions as the alliance members. If and when the vaccine becomes available, doses will be distributed based on the population in each country.
“This is an important step that we’re taking today,” Mr de Jonge said. “A vaccine is crucial in combating the virus. Until we have a vaccine, it will flare up time and again. That’s why everyone’s working so hard to develop one. We believe in the power of cooperation, and we’re also hedging our bets because you never know which horse is going to win the race.”
He added that the Alliance is also holding discussions with other pharmaceutical companies as it is still uncertain if AstraZeneca’s vaccine will go into production.
The European Commission received an office order from EU governments on Friday regarding advance purchases of possible coronavirus vaccines, the EU’s top health official said.