Drugmaker AstraZeneca has doubled manufacturing capacity for its potential coronavirus vaccine to two billion doses in a handful of deals involving Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates that guarantee early supply to lower income countries.
The deals with epidemic response group CEPI and vaccine alliance GAVI are backed by the World Health Organisation and aim to quell concerns that the company was committing all initial supplies of the vaccine to the developed world.
It is unclear if vaccines will work against the coronavirus but dozens of companies are in the race to develop one, and AstraZeneca’s partnership with Oxford University is one of a handful to be backed so far by US President Donald Trump’s COVID task force.
Under the deals, the company will supply 300 million doses, starting this year, to CEPI and GAVI as it aims at fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine, CEO Pascal Soriot said.
He said AstraZeneca had also agreed terms with Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume, to supply one billion doses for low and middle-income countries.
Experts predict a safe and effective vaccine could take 12-18 months to develop.
The vaccine, previously known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, was developed by the University of Oxford and licensed to AstraZeneca.