The chief executive of British pharma giant AstraZeneca said on Friday that his company is “on track” to begin rolling out up to two billion doses of a coronavirus vaccine in September if ongoing trials prove successful.
The company is partnering with Oxford University, which has pioneered the vaccine, and is already manufacturing doses before seeking final regulatory approval once testing concludes in the coming months.
“So far we’re still on track… we are starting to manufacture this vaccine right now, and we have to have it ready to be used by the time we have the results,” AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot told BBC radio.
Read more: When will a Covid-19 vaccine be ready?
“Our present assumption is that we will have the data by the end of the summer, by August, so in September we should know whether we have an effective vaccine or not.”
Partnerships for widespread coverage
The firm announced this week it had struck agreements with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, and the Serum Institute of India to double the production capacity of the COVID-19 vaccine to two billion doses.
The partnership with the Indian institute — one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers — will help supply it to a large number of low- and middle-income countries.
UK’s AstraZeneca ‘on track’ to roll out virus vaccine in September
British pharma giant is partnering with Oxford University, which began trials with hundreds of volunteers in April, and is now expanding them to 10,000 participants https://t.co/kCTx3IR6tT via @timesofisrael— Saul of United (@Viatcheslavsos3) June 7, 2020
AstraZeneca has established separate supply chains for the vaccine in Europe, the United States, India and is also looking at setting up production in China, Soriot said.
He added AstraZeneca, which is undertaking the work on a non-profit basis, could lose money if trials prove disappointing. But he said the company was sharing the financial risk with organizations such as CEPI.
“We’re manufacturing indeed at risk — and that’s the only way to have the vaccine ready to go if it works,” he added.
Oxford University began initial trials of its COVID-19 vaccine with hundreds of volunteers in April, and is now expanding them to 10,000 participants.
A trial of AstraZeneca’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine in pigs has found that two doses of the Oxford University-developed shot produced a greater antibody response than a single dose, scientists said on Tuesday.
Pigs are a useful research model for this type of vaccine and other trials have been able to predict vaccine outcomes in humans, particularly in studies of flu.
The vaccine is already in mid-stage human trials, and AstraZeneca has said it hopes to have data showing efficacy later this year.