The European Commission is at an advanced stage of talks with the American pharmaceuticals company Johnson & Johnson aimed at reserving doses of a new vaccine against the coronavirus the company is developing, Reuters reports.
At present, Johnson & Johnson is at the stage of testing on volunteer human subjects in the US and in Belgium, where its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutica is involved in development. Those tests are due to begin next month. So far more than 400 volunteers have stepped up to take part in Belgium.
Last week the Commission received the go-ahead to reserve €2.4 billion for advance purchase or reservation of new vaccines. The idea is to carry out the process on behalf of all members states – although some (the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and France) have already begun to go it alone.
The principle is that unless all are safe, no-one is safe.
The Commission is said to be aiming at obtaining 300 to 600 million doses of vaccine, once they are cleared for public use. The population of the EU is 447.2 million.
The advance payments will not only encourage pharmaceutical companies to take the risk of spending on research and development of a product that may not be approved. It also helps the EU to be competitive as a customer – more so than any individual member state acting alone.
“Working together will increase our chances of securing access to a safe and effective vaccine at the scale we need and as quickly as possible,” Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety, said this week.
“It will ensure fair and equitable access for all across the EU and globally, thus offering the best opportunity of finding a permanent exit strategy from the Covid-19 crisis.”
Reuters’ unnamed source said the deal with Johnson & Johnson was “in the pipeline”. Neither the Commission nor the company would comment.