After having held discussions with the Sanofi-GSK pharmaceutical duo, the European Commission announced on Thursday that it had also concluded initial discussions with Janssen Pharmaceutica, the Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
The talks aim to reach a possible advance purchase contract that would guarantee EU member states a certain number of vaccine doses, in case the company manages to create an effective vaccine against the new coronavirus.
In parallel, the Commission also continues to discuss with other pharmaceutical companies which are trying to develop a vaccine. This is part of the Commission’s “vaccine strategy” unveiled in mid-June, to ensure that Europeans do not remain on the sidelines when an approved vaccine reaches the market.
The Commission presented then a common European strategy to buy vaccines against the coronavirus on behalf of all member states through advance purchase agreements with producers. In a complementary track, four EU member states had signed orders for millions of doses of a vaccine which is being developed by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
Concerns have been circulating, that the United States would try to monopolize potential future vaccine stocks.
The Commission has launched a sort of call for tenders to pharmaceutical companies, to centralize EU-level negotiations. While the commission is well aware that the successful development of a safe vaccine is not guaranteed, the idea is that the EU then agrees in advance to buy a certain number of doses at a pre-established price, with the producer promising to provide them, if their vaccine is validated and safe.
The Commission is financing part of the initial costs, but it will ultimately be down to each Member State to pay for the number of doses needed, based on the size of their populations.
With GSK-Sanofi, the Commission agreed on 31 July on a contractual framework allowing for the possible purchase of 300 million doses on behalf of all member states. Sanofi-GSK’s vaccine candidate is planning to seek marketing authorisation in June 2021, following Phase III clinical trials yielding the induction of a promising immune response.
With Johnson & Johnson, the Commission discusses a possible contract for 200 million doses, with the possibility of an additional 200 million in a second step, also on behalf of all member states.
The EU’s “vaccine strategy” specifies that it wants to ensure a large-scale availability of a vaccine for all Europeans in a time-frame of within a year to a year and a half.