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Covid-19 vaccine

France and three other EU countries sign deal for AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines

Example of an influenza vaccine being administered.
Example of an influenza vaccine being administered. AFP/File

Four European countries, including France on Saturday, have signed a pre-order for millions of Covid-19 vaccines with the British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

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Designed to provide for all EU members, the doses would be available at the end of 2020 if the group's current trials prove successful.

"AstraZeneca has reached an agreement with Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA), spearheaded by Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, to supply up to 400 million doses of the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine, with deliveries starting by the end of 2020," a company statement said online.

The idea is to cover the needs of all EU member states within an "inclusive alliance" based on "discussions with pharmaceutical laboratories," according to a joint statement signed by health and economy ministers on Saturday.

"This agreement will ensure that hundreds of millions of Europeans have access to Oxford University’s vaccine following approval," Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca's Chief Executive Officer said.

"With our European supply chain due to begin production soon, we hope to make the vaccine available widely and rapidly."

The four signatories will pay the entire bill, a sum which has not been made public, and vaccines will be distributed to states according to population size.

The pre-order was signed under a mandate put forward by the European Commission on Friday stating that deals could be signed with other pharmaceutical companies in the race to find a vaccine.

French health minister Olivier Veran said on Saturday that further negotiations with other laboratories could be envisaged, "to reduce the dependence on one single project."

Promising results

The initial results of 'project AZD1222' against the Sars-CoV-2 (Covid-19) in collaboration with Oxford University have been promising so far, and have been tested on some 10,000 volunteer patients in the United Kingdom, Brazil and the United States, where the virus is still very active.

"The vaccine is based on a viral transmission," AstraZeneca France president Olivier Nataf told France Info on Sunday.

"We take an inactive virus and change its genetic code in order to insert a genetic code which will allow it to produce a coronavirus protein. In producing this protein, the patient will develop an immune response against Covid-19."

French research body Inserm has been piloting a test project to better understand this protein labelled Spike.

The initial results of the trials are to be published soon, says Olivier Nataf, with the possibility of results in the autumn.

€2 per dose

AstraZeneca, the result of a merger between the Swedish group Astra and the British group Zeneca in 1999, says it will not make a profit from the production of the vaccine and will "maintain the cost at approximately 2 euros per dose," according to Nataf.

At this stage the company says its maximum capacity for manufacturing is two billion doses, but it is aware that total success may not be possible in the short term.

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

The laboratory has also signed deals with funds supported by Bill Gates, as well as the American government, which is putting up 1.2 billion dollars towards the project.

 

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