AstraZeneca to widen global access to Oxford University’s hoped-for COVID-19 vaccine

Oxford Covid-19 Vaccine testing

It might not work, but that’s not stopping AstraZeneca taking the risk of scaling up the manufacture of Oxford University‘s COVID-19 vaccine, which is still in clinical trials.

The pharmaceutical company, headquartered in Cambridge, has committed to broaden global access to the potential vaccine, following landmark agreements with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, and the Serum Institute of India (SII).

AstraZeneca recently agreed to supply 400 million doses to the US and UK after reaching a licence agreement with Oxford University for its recombinant adenovirus vaccine, now known as AZD1222.

Oxford University recently announced the start of a Phase II/III trial of AZD1222 in about 10,000 adult volunteers. Other late-stage trials are due to begin in a number of countries.

AstraZeneca has reached a $750m agreement with CEPI and Gavi to support the manufacturing and distribution of 300 million doses of the vaccine, with delivery starting by the end of the year. AstraZeneca has also reached a licensing agreement with SII to supply one billion doses for low and middle-income countries, with a commitment to provide 400 million before the end of 2020.

AstraZeneca is building a number of supply chains across the world to support global access at no profit during the pandemic and has so far secured manufacturing capacity for two billion doses of the vaccine.

But Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer, AstraZeneca, admitted that if it doesn’t work all the vaccines which it has started to manufacture will be wasted. He told the BBC’s Today programme: “With this decision [to begin manufacture] comes a risk but it is a financial risk and that financial risk is that if the vaccine doesn’t work, and we will find this out at the end of August, then all the materials, all the vaccines we have manufactured will be wasted.”

The agreement with CEPI and Gavi also represents the first advanced market commitment through the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global mechanism co-chaired by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization (WHO). The mechanism will work to ensure the fair allocation and distribution of the vaccine across the world.

Pascal Soriot said: “We are working tirelessly to honour our commitment to ensure broad and equitable access to Oxford’s vaccine across the globe and at no profit. Today marks an important step in helping us supply hundreds of millions of people around the world, including to those in countries with the lowest means. I am deeply grateful for everyone’s commitment to this cause and for their work in bringing this together in such a short time.”

Dr Richard Hatchett, Chief Executive Officer, CEPI, said: “AstraZeneca and our other industry partners have a critical role to play in rapidly developing safe and effective vaccines and manufacturing the billions of doses needed to put a permanent end to the COVID-19 pandemic. AstraZeneca is admirably committed to equitable global access for this vaccine, and this partnership demonstrates how the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility will bring the private, public and third sectors together to make COVID-19 vaccines available to those who need them most, for the benefit of all.”

Dr Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer, Gavi, said: “Today we have seen tremendous willingness from donor governments to support equitable access, particularly to developing countries – and it is incredibly heartening to see the private sector join in this effort. We encourage other vaccine manufacturers to work with us towards the shared global goal of finding solutions for this unprecedented pandemic.”

Adar Poonawalla, Chief Executive Officer, SII, said: “Serum Institute of India is delighted to partner with AstraZeneca in bringing this vaccine to India as well as low and middle-income countries. Over the past 50 years SII has built significant capability in vaccine manufacturing and supply globally. We will work closely with AstraZeneca to ensure fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine in these countries.”