Coronavirus vaccine pre-orders top 5 billion

Hong Kong – Although none of the coronavirus vaccines under development has proved its efficacy yet in clinical trials, at least 5.7 billion doses have been pre-ordered around the world.

First shipments of a Covid-19 vaccine created by Western laboratories have often been snapped up by the United States.

Six vaccines are in phase 3 efficacy trials involving thousands of people.

In a surprise announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that a vaccine dubbed “Sputnik V” – after the Soviet satellite – conferred “sustainable immunity” against the novel coronavirus.

As research laboratories around the world race to develop a vaccine, manufacturers have received financing to help them prepare to have millions of doses ready to administer in 2021 or even before the end of the year.

Oxford University, working with the Swedish-British pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca, hopes to have results by September while the US biotech company Moderna, partnering with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), is aiming for the end of the year, possibly November.

US President Donald Trump has launched “Operation Warp Speed” in a bid to develop, manufacture and distribute a Covid-19 vaccine to all Americans by January 2021. On Tuesday, he announced a US$1.5 billion contract with US biotech company Moderna for 100 million doses of its eventual coronavirus vaccine, the sixth such deal reached since May.

“I’m pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement with Moderna to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine candidate,” the president said at a White House news conference. “The federal government will own these vaccine doses, we’re buying them.”

“We’re on track to rapidly produce 100 million doses as soon as the vaccine is approved, and up to 500 million shortly thereafter, so we’ll have 600 million doses,” he added.

The United States has allocated funding to more companies than other nation – a total of at least US$10.9 billion – for the development and manufacturing of a coronavirus vaccine.

In addition to the Moderna contract, it has already ordered hundreds of millions of vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Pfizer, Sanofi and AstraZeneca.

Two vaccine developers – Oxford/AztraZeneca and Sanofi/GSK – have signed or are in advanced negotiations with the European Commission to provide a combined 700 million vaccine doses.

Britain, because of Brexit, is negotiating a separate pre-order of 250 million doses from four developers.

Japan is counting on 490 million doses from three suppliers including 250 million from Novavax of the United States.

Japanese pharmaceutical giant Takeda bought the rights to a Novavax vaccine for Japan, which has funded the research. It would be produced locally.

Brazil chose a similar model, ordering 100 million doses from AstraZeneca, and partnering with China’s Sinovac to produce 120 millions of “CoronaVac”, which is already undergoing testing with Brazilians.

Clinical tests of two Chinese vaccine candidates – Sinovac and Sinopharm – are well under way but only a few international partnerships have been announced, the one with Brazil and a possible one with Indonesia.

Russia said 20 nations have pre-ordered one billion doses of Sputnik V and that with foreign partners it would be able to produce 500 million doses a year in five countries.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), launched in 2017 by Norway, India, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, seeks to ensure that there is “equitable access” to future vaccines. It has pre-ordered 300 million doses from AstraZeneca for dozens of developing countries in a partnership with The Vaccine Alliance (Gavi).

Billions of doses would be produced for Asia and elsewhere by the giant Serum Institute of India (SII), the largest vaccine producer in the world.

Novavax and AstraZeneca have separately signed agreements with SII to produce a billion doses each for India and low- and middle-income countries on the condition, of course, that they prove their efficacy in clinical trials. (SCMP)