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.