The European Union hopes to receive 30 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020, according to a European Commission official.
British drugmaker AstraZeneca has been developing a potential vaccine with researchers at Oxford University. The company announced Monday that it had started late-stage trials in the US, where it will test the product on 30,000 people, as part of a global trial of 50,000 people.
AstraZeneca has said it could have enough data from its trials by October to secure approval from US regulators. In the UK, scientists said last week that they hope to also submit the potential vaccine to regulators by the end of this year.
It is this potential vaccine that the EU has made a €336 million ($395 million) downpayment for, to secure at least 300 million doses, with an option to buy an extra 100 million doses, reports Reuters.
If one dose was used per person, that figure would cover 6 to 7 percent of the EU population.
The official said that the European Commission would not own any of the doses, and that the EU’s 27 member states – all of which have opted into the deal – would have to purchase vials and decide who to vaccinate first.
“These doses will be distributed pro-rata among the member states, and so on and so forth, until we get to a total of the 300 million doses we have negotiated,” they said.
AstraZeneca must now gather enough data to show that the potential vaccine works and is safe to use, before seeking approval from regulatory agencies.
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has warned that a vaccine might not be ready until the end of 2021. But Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, was cautiously optimistic that it could be available before then.
“I think that Chris Whitty is quite rightly being cautious, that it could take as long as that to first of all demonstrate a vaccine works and is safe, and then to go through the processes of regulators looking at that very carefully to make sure everything’s been done correctly,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“But it is also just possible that, if the cases accrue rapidly in the clinical trials, that we could have that data to put before regulators this year, and then there would be a process that they go through in order to make a full assessment of the data.”
GlaxoSmithKline, a British drugmaker, is due this month to start testing a COVID-19 vaccine it has been working on in partnership with the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur. BioNTech and Pfizer are also jointly working on a potential coronavirus vaccine, and have already struck deals with the US and Japan for 100 million and 120 million doses respectively.