The European Union has reached an agreement with British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to purchase at least 300 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
The deal which was brokered on behalf of the European Union member states was reached after many weeks of negotiations according to European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides.
“I would like to thank AstraZeneca for its constructive engagement on this relevant agreement for our citizens. We will continue to work tirelessly to bring more candidates into a broad EU vaccines portfolio. A safe and effective vaccine remains the surest exit strategy to protect our citizens and the rest of the world from the Coronavirus,” she said.
Ursula von der Leyen was also upbeat about the agreement saying that it was “the first cornerstone” in implementing the Commission’s Vaccines Strategy.
“The European Commission’s intense negotiations continue to achieve results. Today’s agreement is the first cornerstone in implementing the European Commission’s Vaccines Strategy. This strategy will enable us to provide future vaccines to Europeans, as well as our partners elsewhere in the world,” she said.
If viable, first doses of the vaccine (AZD1222) which has been developed by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute and the Oxford Vaccine Group will be delivered by the end of 2020.
The partnership with AstraZeneca will see the global biopharmaceutical company oversee the development and large-scale manufacture and delivery of the vaccine.
The project was given a further boost with cash funding of £84 million from the UK government to help with the rapid development of the vaccine.
In July, the initial trials of the vaccine were published in the Lancet medical journal. The trials involved over 1,077 British adults and found that the vaccine was able to induce strong T cell response within 14 days of vaccination (white blood cells that can attack cells infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus), and an antibody response within 28 days (antibodies are able to neutralise the virus so that it cannot infect cells when initially contracted).
There were no serious side effects reported and any minor side effects could be easily controlled with paracetamol. Fatigue and headache were the most commonly reported minor reactions.
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said that the agreement would see the vaccine available to millions of EU citizens.
Orders are also said to have been earmarked for China and the United States which has already placed an order of 400 million doses at the cost of $1.2 billion.
The UK government has also agreed to purchase up to 100 million doses of the vaccine stating that around 30 million will be ready for UK citizens by September.
Since January when the virus first emerged, 170 vaccine candidates are now being developed with 15 said to be undergoing human trials.
However, experts have warned that a vaccine may never be found with the UK’s chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance recently stating that the development of an effective vaccine could never be guaranteed.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin recently announced that his country had successfully produced a COVID-19 vaccine, however, experts have raised concerns about the claims and the lack of testing and transparency.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is cautious over the potential Russian vaccine which was developed at the Gamaleya Research Institue.
A document released by the WHO shows that the vaccine is far behind some of the other prospective treatments, and is still only in phase one of trials.
Likewise, China, where the virus was first discovered, has also given the green light to use their own vaccine on its military after trials proved it was deemed to be both safe and effective in fighting the virus.
Image Credit: https://www.ox.ac.uk/