AstraZeneca Plc will make as many as 30 million doses of vaccine available to the UK by September and has committed to delivering 100 million doses this year. The UK will be the first country to get access to the vaccine should it be successful.
The vaccine being developed at the University of Oxford will get 65.5 million pounds ($79 million) of funding, UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma said today in a statement. The inoculation is already being studied in humans and could reach late-stage trials by the middle of the year. Another 18.5 million pounds will go to Imperial College London as trials accelerate.
Drugmakers are scaling up to make a COVID-19 vaccine before the shots are fully tested, so inoculations will be ready as soon as possible. No vaccine exists yet for COVID-19, which has killed more than 312,000 people globally and infected 4.7 million. The UK has the second-deadliest outbreak after the US.
The pandemic is sparking a race for a vaccine that could leave poorer nations behind. French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi sparked outrage last week after suggesting that the US may get its vaccine first. Sanofi said later that its vaccine would be available to everyone.
Although developers globally are working on as many as 100 experimental vaccines for COVID-19, there is no guarantee of success. Finding a vaccine and distributing it globally will be a “massive moonshot” and the world needs to learn to live with a virus that “may never go away,” Dr. Michael Ryan, an executive of director of the World Health Organization said last week.
Earlier, the UK government said a vaccine production facility will open in the summer of 2021, a year earlier than previously planned, after receiving a total of 131 million pounds in government funding to accelerate development.
The UK Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Center will be capable of producing 70 million vaccine doses within four to six months of opening its permanent facility at Harwell campus in Oxfordshire, the center said in a statement.
The project, which is a non-profit partnership between the University of Oxford, Imperial College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, also plans to set up a temporary rapid deployment facility so that production could start as soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is discovered.
The UK government has granted the project 93 million pounds to accelerate the opening of the permanent site by 12 months, as well as 38 million pounds for the rapid deployment facility.
“I said we would throw everything we could at finding a vaccine,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said of the new funding. “There remains a very long way to go, and I must be frank that a vaccine might not come to fruition. But we are leading the global effort,” he made the remarks in an op-ed article published in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.