Italy, Germany, France, others signs contract with AstraZeneca to supply citizens with COVID-19 vaccine

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Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands have signed a contract with AstraZeneca to supply European citizens with a coronavirus vaccine, Italy’s health minister said on Saturday.

The contract with the British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company is for 400m doses of the vaccine, which was developed with the University of Oxford. The trial phase is already advanced and expected to end in the autumn, Roberto Speranza wrote on Facebook.

He added that a first batch of doses would be made available by the end of this year. However, AstraZeneca’s CEO, Pascal Soriot, could not guarantee the vaccine would work in an interview last month and said several would be required, though he expressed confidence.

The European commission received a mandate from EU governments on Friday to negotiate advance purchases of promising coronavirus vaccines, the EU’s top health official said, but it was unclear whether there would be enough money available.

It comes after AstraZeneca secured a deal with two US government agencies and Vanderbilt University to create antibodies to be used to treat and prevent Covid-19, Bloomberg reported.

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford announced in April their agreement for the global development and distribution of the university’s potential vaccine aimed at preventing Covid-19 infection.

“We’re trailblazing here because we are not following the standard process, we are partnering with regulators both in the UK and the US, we’re working hand in hand with the [Food and Drug Administration], we are sharing data on a day to day basis and they have committed themselves to help look at our data as they come so by the time we finish the first [trial] program in August they can rapidly approve the vaccine,” Soriot told CNN in May.

He claimed that drug companies are competing against the virus, not against each other, and that AstraZeneca – among other manufacturers – was doing this for no profit. It has received $1bn from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for the development, production and delivery of the vaccine.