EU places firm order for AZ/Oxford Uni’s ChAdOx1 COVID-19 vaccine

The European Commission has placed its first advance order for a coronavirus vaccine, snapping up 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s ChAdOx1 candidate developed by the University of Oxford, with an option on another 100 million.

ChAdOx1 – which is in large-scale phase 2/3 trials – was licensed by AZ in April and renamed AZD1222, and should be ready for first deliveries before the end of the year. It will be provided on a no-profit basis while the pandemic is ongoing.

The EU says its advance purchase order will finance part of the upfront costs of developing the vaccine.

The order comes after the Commission put agreements in place for the supply of two other vaccines – from Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline – that will be activated if the shots prove their worth in clinical trials.

Those deals cover 200 million doses of J&J’s Ad26.COV2.S – with an option on another 200 million – and 300 million doses of the Sanofi/GSK candidate. Meanwhile, the EC is also talking to Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and CureVac about access to their COVID-19 shots.

There are concerns that the scale of the deals – which comes after a series of similar big orders from the US and other national governments – could make accessing supplies more difficult for organisations such the WHO and GAVI, which are aiming to supply less affluent countries.

Reuters says that the Commission has “urged EU states to shun the WHO-led initiative because it sees it as too expensive and slow.”

The EU is now suggesting that it could use a portion of its vaccine orders to supply countries elsewhere in the world, which could be viewed as stepping on the toes of these non-governmental organisation (NGO) initiatives.

“We will continue to work tirelessly to bring more candidates into a broad EU vaccines portfolio,” said Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, adding that a vaccine “remains the surest exit strategy to protect our citizens and the rest of the world from the coronavirus.”

The advance order will be financed using the EU’s Emergency Support Instrument, a €2 billion fund set aside to cover purchases of vaccines, drugs and other goods needed to fight the coronavirus epidemic.

The fund has already been deployed to order Gilead’s antiviral drug Veklury (remdesivir) and apheresis equipment to collect antibodies from the blood of patients who have recovered from COVID-19.

Last month, interim results from a phase 1/2 trial of ChAdOx1  were published in The Lancet and showed the jab was tolerated and generated immune responses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in all vaccinated participants.

It is based on an adenoviral vector formed on a weakened version of the adenovirus that causes a common cold-line illness in chimpanzees, containing the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

AZ said that it has now signed supply deals for around 3 billion doses of the vaccine, with Russia, South Korea, Japan, China, Latin America and Brazil also placing orders.

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