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France signs plan to deliver Covid vaccine by end of 2020

France has signed a European agreement to pre-order up to 400 million Covid-19 vaccinations - should the current trials prove safe and successful - for possible public use before the end of 2020.

The French ministers of economy and health signed the agreement with their counterparts from Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy, with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, which is currently developing and testing the vaccine in trials in the UK and Brazil.

AstraZeneca is working with the University of Oxford in the UK to develop the vaccine and test its safety and efficacy. The vaccine is currently known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.

The European Commission, which had previously said it would be in favour of a common deal, has said it is ready to release €2.4 billion to fund the EU purchase of the vaccine, which will be bought at cost price.

The results of the trials are expected in September.

CEO of AstraZeneca, Pascal Soriot, told news service FranceInfo: “If everything goes well, if the trials are positive, the vaccine will be available in October, and we will be able to start vaccinating people across Europe in October [and] November.”


Vaccine in France before end of 2020

French health minister Olivier Véran said: “Signing this agreement allows us to secure access to a possible vaccine in the first instance, in the context of strong international competition.

“We need to continue these negotiations with our partners to reduce the risk of depending on a single project, by securing access to other possible vaccinations, and closely following the scientific progress of the work."

Junior economy minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said: “If the vaccine is scientifically approved, this will allow us to guarantee access to our citizens, with tens of millions of doses set to be delivered before the end of 2020.”

The German health minister said that doses of the vaccine would be “distributed to all [EU] member states that want to participate, depending on the size of their population. So that the vaccinations will be available in large numbers after their possible approval this year or next, the production capacity must be contractually guaranteed from right now.”

The Germany health ministry added: “Rapid, coordinated action of a group of [EU] member states creates added value for everyone in this crisis."

There are around a dozen other clinical trials of possible Covid-19 vaccines taking place globally - including by the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi - many within a record time of just a few months compared to the usual vaccine development timeframe of several years. 

So far, Covid-19 has killed more than 417,000 people and infected more than 7.4 million people worldwide.

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