As Covid-19 cases pass 5 million, AstraZeneca set to supply potential vaccine in September

As Covid-19 cases pass 5 million, AstraZeneca set to supply potential vaccine in September

British-Swedish drug manufacturer AstraZeneca has said it has the capacity to manufacture 1 billion doses of the University of Oxford’s potential Covid-19 vaccine, with first deliveries in September, if clinical trials are successful.

The pharma firm said it had signed the first agreements to supply at least 400 million doses of the potential vaccine which it is developing with the university.

While admitting that it recognised the unproven vaccine might not work, AstraZeneca said that if results from the early stage tests were positive, they would lead to late-stage trials in several countries.

The United States threw its weight behind the firm by pledging as much as $1.2 billion to AstraZeneca Plc to help make the university’s vaccine and also secured almost a third of AstraZeneca’s one billion possible vaccine.

After demands by President Donald Trump, the US Department of Health agreed to provide up to $1.2 billion to speeden AstraZeneca’s vaccine development and secure 300 million doses of the vaccines for the US.

US Health Secretary Alex Azar pointed out that the agreement with AstraZeneca is a major milestone in Operation Warp Speed’s work toward a safe, effective, widely available vaccine by 2021.

The United Kingdom will receive 100 million of the AstraZeneca doses, with 30 million as soon as September. The UK has also pledged funding to the pharma giant.

AstraZeneca said it aims to conclude further deals in order to expand capacity over the next few months to “ensure the delivery of a globally accessible vaccine”.

The firm said that it is in talks with the Serum Institute of India – although it added that it was also speaking to various organisations on the fair allocation and distribution of the vaccine.

Other drug manufacturers including Pfizer Inc , Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi are also in various stages of Covid-19 vaccine development.

US-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals reported on Wednesday its experimental vaccine produced protective antibodies and immune system responses in mice and guinea pigs.

And Moderna earlier this week released positive data for its potential vaccine, which it said produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers.

Meanwhile, a leading US scientist has said that people should not count on a vaccine being developed any time soon, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide passed 5 million since the outbreak began less than five months ago.

William Haseltine, who is known for groundbreaking research in cancer and HIV/AIDS and has also worked on human genome projects, said that while a COVID-19 vaccine could be developed, “I wouldn’t count on it.” Instead, he told Reuters, countries beginning to ease lockdown rules need to lean on careful tracing of infections and strict isolation measures to whenever it starts spreading.

World Health Organisation Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. who has waned nations against lifting lockdown measures too quickly,  said on Wednesday that in the last 24 hours, there have been 106,000 coronavirus cases reported to WHO — the most in a single day since the outbreak began.

The US  recorded the highest number of infections with 1,551,853 cases, followed by Russia (317,554 cases) and Brazil (291,579 cases).

While Russia clocked a relatively low death toll of 3,099, US and Brazil deaths stood at 93,439 and 18,859 respectively.

Brazil accounts for nearly half of all cases in Latin America, and has been facing criticism for its handling of the outbreak. The country reported 888 new deaths and nearly 20,000 new infections on Wednesday.