The European Commission announced on Friday that it has struck a deal with French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi to reserve 300 million doses of a possible future COVID-19 vaccine.
The agreement would provide an option for all EU Member States to purchase the vaccine.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: "While we do not know today which vaccine will work best in the end, Europe is investing in a diversified portfolio of promising vaccines, based on various types of technologies.
"This increases our chances to obtain rapidly an effective remedy against the virus."
The vaccine candidate, developed by Sanofi in partnership with GSK, is based on the recombinant protein technology that Sanofi used to produce an influenza vaccine and on the adjuvant for pandemic use developed by GSK. The doses would be produced in European countries and in particular in France, Belgium, Germany and Italy.
Sanofi is leading clinical development and vaccine registration procedures and plans to begin a Phase I / II study in September, followed by a Phase III study by the end of 2020. If the data is positive, regulatory approval for this vaccine could be obtained in the first half of 2021.
At the same time, Sanofi and GSK are increasing their antigen and adjuvant production capacities to be able to manufacture up to one billion doses per year in total.
The Commission is currently negotiating with several vaccine developers to strike similar deals, it stated, adding that it is ready to team up with international partners if a "significant number of countries would agree to pool resources for jointly reserving future vaccines from companies for themselves" and for low and middle-income countries at the same time.
It further states, "the high-income countries could act as an inclusive international buyers' group, thus accelerating the development of safe and effective vaccines and maximise access to them for all who need it across the world."
Thomas Triomphe, Executive Vice President and Global Head. by Sanofi Pasteur welcomed the agreement with the European Union, saying: "We have always been committed to providing an affordable vaccine that is accessible to all and are grateful to the European Commission for its continued commitment to our side and its support."
A few hours before the European announcement, Sanofi and the British laboratory GSK announced that they would receive up to $ 2.1 billion for the development of their potential anti-COVID-19 vaccine, after being selected to deliver 100 million doses to Americans.
The French government welcomed the Commission’s announcement, which “will allow each member state of the European Union to order the vaccine on favourable terms, once it has provided sufficient evidence of its efficacy and ’absence of side effects “.