USA

AstraZeneca now has capacity to make 2 billion doses of coronavirus vaccine

The new production figure includes 400 million doses that will be provided to low and middle-income countries before the end of this year.

The UK-based pharmaceutical company announced Thursday that it had signed two additional deals involving the vaccine, which is currently being tested in about 10,000 adult volunteers in Britain.
AstraZeneca (AZN) has agreed a $750 million deal to produce 300 million doses with international foundations the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi the Vaccine Alliance.

A second agreement, with Serum Institute of India, will allow the leading vaccine manufacturer to make 1 billion doses for poorer countries, with 40% of those to arrive by the end of 2020.

AstraZeneca had previously agreed to supply 400 million doses to the United States and United Kingdom. A spokesperson for the company said Friday that it has spare manufacturing capacity for another 300 million doses.

Typically, companies wait to start the manufacturing process until a vaccine is proven to be safe and effective. But several drugmakers are working on an accelerated timetable in the hope of mitigating the coronavirus pandemic.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said Friday that researchers should have enough data to determine whether the vaccine is safe and effective by September. "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 BBC Radio.

AstraZeneca said in a statement that it is working to "support global access" to the vaccine "at no profit" during the pandemic, including for people in the poorest countries. Soriot said the licensing deal with the Serum Institute of India would help make sure the vaccine reaches as many people as possible.

"We are [manufacturing] in India, we are doing it in Europe, we are doing it in the US," Soriot told the BBC. "We have established separate supply chains. One for the US, one for Europe, India, we are now looking at China."

Numerous efforts are underway around the world to produce coronavirus vaccines. Already, a debate is raging over who should get vaccines first and whether pharmaceutical companies should seek to profit on their development.

"We need several vaccines. One vaccine will not be enough. We are all trying to do the same thing which is bring a solution to this terrible pandemic," Soriot told CNN Business in May.

— Max Ramsay contributed reporting.

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