AstraZeneca makes deals for 400M doses of Oxford vaccine

Report: Scientists optimistic coronavirus vaccine could be produced in record time

AstraZeneca plans to ship Oxford Covid-19 vaccine in September

"AstraZeneca is advancing its ongoing response to address the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, collaborating with a number of countries and multilateral organisations to make the University of Oxford's vaccine widely accessible around the world in an equitable manner", a statement said.

AstraZeneca is licensing its vaccine candidate known as AZD1222 from the University of Oxford, where it was developed.

President Trump unveiled his effort, called "Operation Warp Speed", to try to fast-track the development of a coronavirus vaccine by January, NPR reported.

The development programme includes a phase three clinical trial with 30,000 participants, as well as a paediatric trial, it said.

AstraZeneca has "concluded the first agreements for at least 400 million doses and has secured total manufacturing capacity for one billion doses so far and will begin first deliveries in September 2020", said a company statement.

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Astra has said it will make as many as 30 million doses available to the September and has committed to delivering 100 million doses this year.

The WHO has backed an initiative to expand vaccine access to all countries by easing intellectual property restrictions.

With leaders across the world surveying some of the worst economic destruction since at least World War Two, many are scrambling for a vaccine. The company caused uproar among French government officials after it claimed that due to Washington's generous financing the United States would have first priority for any vaccine.

"It will mean the United Kingdom will be the first country to get access to the vaccine, should it be successful", it said at the time.

The company said it was working closely with global bodies including the World Health Organisation (WHO) to ensure the fair allocation and distribution of the vaccine.

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Soriot said the company was grateful for the "substantial support" from the United Kingdom and U.S. governments to accelerate the development and production of the vaccine.

Britain this week pledged 84 million pound ($103 million, 93 million euros) to be split between researchers at Oxford University and Imperial College London to help finance a COVID-19 vaccine.

"We are scaling up on a conservative basis of about 4 to 5 million doses a month to begin with", Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla told Reuters, adding the company was in discussions with AstraZeneca. Data from the trial is expected shortly. In animal tests, all the monkeys injected with the vaccine ended up testing positive for Covid-19 after being introduced to the virus.

The company said it expects to start supplying the United Kingdom in September even as it acknowledged the possibility that the vaccine may not work.

Other drugmakers including Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi are also in various stages of vaccine development.

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The current front-runner in the global vaccine development race is US company Moderna, which released some positive results earlier this week, showing that its vaccine was well-tolerated by healthy volunteers and appeared to produce the "neutralizing antibodies" needed to fight the disease.

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