Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands signed an initial deal with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for over 300 million doses of a promising coronavirus vaccine currently still in the experimental phase, Germany's health ministry confirmed Saturday.
Doses of the vaccine would be distributed to countries relative to their population as soon as it is ready, the ministry said, adding that all EU members can participate in the program.
The vaccine is expected to be finished by the end of 2020.
"In order for the vaccines to be available in large numbers very quickly after their possible approval this year or next year, production capacities must be guaranteed by contract now," the ministry said.
'Rapid coordination' needed
"Many countries in the world have already secured vaccines, Europe has not yet," German Health Minister Jens Spahn said. "Rapid coordinated action by a group of member states will create added value for all EU citizens in this crisis. Together with the Commission, we want to become even faster and stronger in negotiations in the future."
Italy's health minister Robert Speranza also commented on the deal on Facebook, writing that as many as "400 million doses of the vaccine" would be available "for the entire population of Europe."
According to the World Bank, the population of the EU is around 447 million.
The value of the initial contract was not initial made public.
The German Health Ministry said the four countries had formed a vaccination alliance and that they are also in talks with other pharmaceutical companies regarding potential vaccines against COVID-19.
The European Commission on Friday spoke out in favor of advance purchase contracts, after the EU governing body received a mandate from EU governments to make such purchases itself.
As laboratories scramble to find a COVID-19 in record time—12 to 18 months instead of the standard multi-year timeline—advance payments provide for stronger investment in production.
The vaccine from AstraZeneca, developed with the University of Oxford, is one of a handful of vaccines currently in the clinical evaluation phase, the World Health Organization said.
The coronavirus has killed over 417,000 people around the globe. Over 7.4 million people have been infected.
kp/rc (AFP, dpa)