AstraZeneca agrees to supply Europe with 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine

ROME (Reuters) - AstraZeneca Plc signed a contract with European governments on Saturday to supply the region with the potential coronavirus vaccine. This is the UK pharmaceutical manufacturer's latest deal to commit to fighting the pandemic.
The contract provides for up to 400 million doses of the vaccine developed by Oxford University. The company said it wanted to expand vaccine production, which would not be profitable during the pandemic.
Deliveries will start at the end of 2020.
The deal is the first contract signed by the European Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA), a group from France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, to get vaccine doses to all Member States as soon as possible.
At a meeting of the EU health ministers on Friday, the IVA agreed to merge its activities with those of the EU Commission, said the German Ministry of Health.
"As our European supply chain will begin producing soon, we hope to make the vaccine widely and quickly available," said Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca's chief executive, in a statement.
The deal is the latest from AstraZeneca to commit to delivering its vaccine to governments that have sought to pre-purchase promising coronavirus vaccines.
The company has signed manufacturing agreements worldwide to achieve its goal of producing 2 billion doses of the vaccine, including two companies supported by Bill Gates and an agreement with the US government for $ 1.2 billion.
The deal will add another 100 million cans to the $ 2 billion the group has already committed to, said an AstroZeneca spokesman.
The experimental phase of the vaccine is already well advanced and is expected to end in the fall, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a Facebook post.
There are no approved vaccines or treatments for COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
"Many countries in the world have already received vaccines, but Europe has not yet. The rapid, coordinated approach of a group of member states will create added value for all EU citizens in this crisis," said Spahn.
(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte in ROM and Rama Venkat in BANGALORE; additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in BERLIN, Anthony Deutsch in AMSTERDAM and Ludwig Burger; writing by Giulia Segreti; editing by Louise Heavens and David Holmes)

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