The European Commission concludes talks to secure access to coronavirus vaccine.

RB – 08/2020

The research and development of effective vaccines is in full swing the world over. The race to secure access to promising development projects has been on for quite some time now. As early as mid-March 2020, the news about the US President Donald Trump wanting to secure the work on vaccine development by a German company for the USA became publicly known. The European Commission has now concluded talks with pharmaceutical companies on the purchase of potential COVID-19 vaccines.

Worldwide race for vaccine doses

In its EU strategy for COVID-19 vaccines, the European Commission has set out its two-pillar approach to ensuring access to a potential vaccine. We reported on that in the 06/2020 and 07/2020 newsletter issues.

While there is uncertainty as to which manufacturers will receive EMA approval for an effective and safe vaccine and when, upfront costs for research and development, and for building up production capacities by vaccine manufacturers, must be financed now in the form of advanced purchase agreements. The European Commission has, therefore, been holding talks with several manufacturers who have demonstrated promising vaccine developments. For an overview of current ongoing vaccine projects by development phase, please visit, for instance the: WHO website.

At the end of the talks, the President of the European Commission, Ms von der Leyen emphasised the need for Europe to invest in a diverse range of promising vaccines, based on different technologies, as part of a broad European vaccination strategy.

Securing access throughout Europe

With the conclusion of the exploratory negotiations with Sanofi-GSK, the aim is to conclude a contract that will allow all EU Member States to purchase the vaccine. Provided that a COVID-19 vaccine proves to be safe and effective, the European Commission may have the contractual framework to purchase 300 million doses on behalf of its Member States.

The European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Ms Stella Kyriakides believes that the vaccine is the most reliable way out of the crisis. This contract offers EU citizens equal access to the vaccine.

Further exploratory negotiations with the manufacturer Johnson & Johnson were concluded on 13 August. Provided that the current vaccine development receives approval, a contractual pre-emption right for 200 million vaccine doses will be agreed and can be extended by a further 200 million vaccine doses.

At the same time, the EU Member States – Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands have joined together to form a Vaccine Alliance. The Vaccine Alliance acts in addition to the activities of the European Commission and aims to secure a vaccine to supply all EU Member States. In mid-June, a contract for procuring a volume of 400 million vaccine doses was signed with the pharmaceutical group, AstraZeneca. The German Minister of Health, Mr Spahn, considers this important as many countries in the world have already secured vaccines.

Advanced purchase agreement

The exploratory negotiations concluded by the European Commission with Sanofi-GSK and Johnson & Johnson will be continued with the aim of concluding an advanced purchase agreement. These will be financed from the Emergency Aid Reserve. Further potential vaccines with different profiles from different manufacturers will expand the portfolio.

Provided that the phase III clinical trials show the desired immune response, Sanofi-GSK's potential vaccine is to be submitted to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for approval in June 2021.