The global race to create the first COVID-19 vaccine might soon reach a breakthrough. A potential vaccine by British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has reportedly shown promising results, and will very soon begin the manufacturing process.
The potential vaccine is currently undergoing human trials, but chief executive officer Pascal Soriot announced the company would soon begin manufacturing doses for the public to supply the already massive demand. The firm is aiming to supply 2-billion doses.
“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,” he told the BBC.
“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.”
Producing the vaccine before knowing it works is a financial risk for the company, who have already announced they are not aiming to make a profit with the vaccine.
“We felt that there are times in life that corporations need to step up and contribute to resolving a big problem like this one, so decided to do it at no profit.”
The vaccine is being developed in partnership with scientists at Oxford University. AstraZeneca has already signed contracts with The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, both Bill and Melinda Gates-backed health organisations. They also have a contract with the world’s leading vaccine manufacturer by volume, The Serum Institute of India (SII). These contracts will help reach the goal of 2-billion vaccines come September.
As part of their agreement with SII, AstraZeneca will supply one-billion of the doses to low and middle-income countries, and 400-million more before 2020 ends.
“We are working tirelessly to honour our commitment to ensure broad and equitable access to Oxford’s vaccine across the globe and at no profit,” said Soriot. “Today marks an important step in helping us supply hundreds of millions of people around the world, including to those in countries with the lowest means. I am deeply grateful for everyone’s commitment to this cause and for their work in bringing this together in such a short time.”
The company is also working on a separate antibody treatment that is close to breakthrough for treating the elderly and vulnerable. The treatment, if successful, could be life-changing for those in the early stages of the virus. Testing is at full speed, with the hope of production in 2021.