Europe has joined the US and UK in committing to purchase the COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford while health minister Greg Hunt confirms the importance of CSL to Australia's hopes of accessing a vaccine.
AstraZeneca to supply Europe at 'no profit'
The company announced a new agreement with Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA) to supply up to 400 million doses of the investigational adenovirus viral vector COVID-19 vaccine (AZD1222) in development with the University of Oxford.
The agreement follows confirmation the European Union had set aside US$2.7 billion to fund the purchase of any COVID-19 vaccines.
The new agreement, which will see deliveries of the vaccine - if approved - start by the end of 2020, builds on the 700 million doses already committed to the US, UK, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi the Vaccine Alliance.
The company has previously made a number of announcements expanding its manufacturing capability and licensing production of an additional one billion doses of the vaccine to the Serum Institute of India.
According to CEO Pascal Soriot, “This agreement will ensure that hundreds of millions of Europeans have access to Oxford University’s vaccine following approval. With our European supply chain due to begin production soon, we hope to make the vaccine available widely and rapidly. I would like to thank the governments of Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands for their commitment and swift response.”
The vaccine is undergoing accelerated development with the concurrent initiation of early and late-stage clinical trials. The University of Oxford recently announced the start of a phase 2/3 trial involving 10,000 people.
"AstraZeneca recognises that the vaccine may not work but is committed to progressing the clinical programme with speed and scaling up manufacturing at risk," said the company in a statement.
The company said the vaccine will be supplied at 'no profit' but that funding from governments means it will not have "any significant impact" on its financial guidance in 2020.
Greg Hunt in response to AstraZeneca announcement on Europe
On Sunday, health minister Greg Hunt was asked about AstraZeneca's agreement with Europe during an interview with ABC's Insiders program.
"We already have in the relationship between CSL and the University of Queensland, the potential for access to the molecular clamp vaccine if that’s successful," he said.
"More broadly, with CSL and with other partners, we have discussed Australian manufacturing.
"So I think what is likely to occur, no matter where the world a vaccine is successful if, and I say if one is successful, then that will be licensed because it will be in the interest of the manufacturer as well.
"And Australia, with one of the world’s leading medical companies in CSL, has the capacity to manufacture on a large scale and if it’s an Australian production, that would be a wonderful outcome.
"If it’s a global production, we have the capacity under licence to produce in Australia for Australians and the Pacific region."
CSL has previously confirmed its ability to manufacture the recombinant COVID-19 vaccine under development at the University of Queensland.
However, its ability to manufacture an adenovirus viral vector vaccine like that being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford remains unclear.
In a previous statement, the company said, "CSL Behring’s plasma manufacturing facility in Broadmeadows, Victoria, could hypothetically do the cell culture manufacture" required for a viral vector vaccine.
It also said it has "capabilities to undertake the ‘downstream’ aspects of vaccine production" such as "processing vaccine material into vials."