AstraZeneca pens deal to produce tens of millions more vaccine doses

This July 18, 2020, file photo, shows the AstraZeneca offices in Cambridge, England. (AP)
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Updated 01 September 2020

AstraZeneca pens deal to produce tens of millions more vaccine doses

  • Announcement follows news it is starting final human trials

LONDON: AstraZeneca has signed a £50 million ($67 million) deal to produce tens of millions of additional doses of the vaccine it is developing in partnership with Oxford University.

The supply deal was signed with local biotech company Oxford Biomedica, and will provide a significant boost to AstraZeneca’s vaccine-manufacturing capacity.

The news of the deal came as the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant announced that it was commencing its final human trials to test the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

On Monday, AstraZeneca said it would be testing the inoculation on 50,000 people, 30,000 of whom are in the US.

If the trials are successful, it said it may have approval from US regulators by October for emergency use of the vaccine.

The global race to develop a safe and effective vaccine is entering its late stages, and a number of countries worldwide are closing in on being the first to roll out a vaccine en-masse.

Russia approved its controversial Sputnik V vaccine for widespread use after just two months of human testing, and said it would begin large-scale manufacturing despite doubts over its readiness from the World Health Organization.

Another major British drug manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, has struck a deal with French company Sanofi Pasteur to develop a vaccine. They plan to begin human testing this month.

A number of leading vaccine candidates are based in China, and a senior health official said they have been giving one to health workers and border officials for “emergency use” since July.

But despite the global progress in developing vaccines and the widespread testing many are embarking on, doubts still remain about the efficacy of vaccination against coronavirus.

Last week, Dr. Sarah Gilbert, the lead scientist developing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, cautioned that it is “difficult” to establish for how long any vaccine will provide protection from viral infection, and what level of immunity it will offer.


Pakistani baby born in Makkah reaches home, meets parents after yearlong wait

Updated 16 January 2021

Pakistani baby born in Makkah reaches home, meets parents after yearlong wait

  • Abdullah was born prematurely Jan. 9 last year to Pakistani Umrah pilgrims
  • Parents say medical treatment was paid for entirely by Saudi government

ISLAMABAD: A baby born prematurely to Pakistani Umrah pilgrims in Makkah last year was returned on Friday evening to his parents in Quetta, Pakistan — a full year after his birth and successful treatment in Saudi Arabia.

Bibi Hajra and her husband Ghulam Haider were forced to leave their baby behind after their Umrah visas expired following the birth of their son on Jan. 9 last year — a premature birth, with the baby weighing only 1 kg and suffering from severe medical complications at the Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Makkah.

The baby, named Abdullah, was placed on a ventilator and stayed on in the hospital for a period of 46 days under the observation of doctors and consultants specialized in neonatal intensive care.

After this, the child was transferred to special care under the supervision of the Social Service Department.

“We had to return to Pakistan and leave our baby in the hospital as our visas expired, and then could not go back due to coronavirus,” a tearful Hajra told Arab News on Saturday from Pakistan’s southwestern Quetta city.

“Initially, I was very worried about my baby, but the hospital administration remained in touch with us. They used to show me Abdullah on video and also send us his pictures,” she said.

“We are thankful to the Saudi government, hospital authorities, doctors, nurses and Pakistani consulate in Jeddah for their cooperation,” she added.

On Thursday, the Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Makkah handed Abdullah over to a delegation from the Pakistani Consulate after taking care of him for a full year.

Abdullah’s father, Haider, who is a dispenser at a small clinic in Quetta, also expressed his gratitude to the Saudi government and the Pakistani mission for their support.

“Our child remained under treatment for one year but we have not even been charged a single penny,” Haider told Arab News.

“All the expenses were taken care of by the Saudi government,” he said.

The return of Abdullah to Quetta, he continued, had been arranged by the Pakistani Consulate in Jeddah free of charge.

“The Pakistani Consulate was in contact with the hospital as well as with the parents of the child. They provided all the medical facilities and kept Abdullah in complete care. Now he is absolutely fine and one year old,” the community welfare attache of the Pakistani Consulate, Saqib Ali Khan, who received the boy from the hospital on Thursday, told Arab News.

“When the hospital administration assured us that the child is completely fine, we sent him back to Quetta through a delegation and he was received by the parents,” he said.

Khan thanked the Saudi government, the Saudi Ministry of Health and the medical team at the hospital for providing the child with special care, and for keeping in touch with the family in order to reassure them over the entire year of their separation.