AstraZeneca reaches supply deal with Brazilian government to produce millions of doses of COVID-19 shot

As COVID-19 continues to rampage across the globe, Brazil stands alongside the U.S. as the countries hardest hit with new infections and deaths. But AstraZeneca and its vaccine hopeful could be coming to save the day now that the drugmaker and Brazilian government have reached a new supply pact.

AstraZeneca and the government of Brazil have inked a deal valued at $127 million to produce doses of the University of Oxford's adenovirus-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222, as the country combats a rising count of new infections.

Brazil—which trails only the U.S. in terms of total reported COVID-19 cases and deaths—will make available around 30 million finished doses of the vaccine, with roughly half that amount available by December, AstraZeneca said. Brazil has also committed to produce an additional 70 million doses, with AstraZeneca supplying the unfinished vaccine at no cost. 

"In accordance with AstraZeneca's commitment globally, the company will supply the vaccine to countries without considering profit during the pandemic, understanding that this is a global problem and that it needs an answer considering the impact on global public health," an AstraZeneca spokeswoman said in an email.

The vaccine doses will be finished in Brazil by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, also known as Fiocruz, as AstraZeneca does not have a vaccine production suite at its Brazilian manufacturing facility, the drugmaker said.

As of Monday, the country had tallied 1.35 million cases of COVID-19 and nearly 58,000 deaths, according to case tracker Worldometers.

British drugmaker AstraZeneca's newest supply agreement with Brazil comes only days after the company agreed to negotiations with the Japanese government for a similar production deal.

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On Friday, local drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo said it was piecing together a supply deal with AstraZeneca for Oxford's shot after the Japanese government agreed to sit down at the negotiating table to discuss a possible deal.

Daiichi Sankyo Biotech, a subsidiary of the Japanese drugmaker, plans to receive Oxford's undiluted vaccine, which it will finish at its own facilities.

At the same time, Daiichi pledged to continue its work on developing an inhaled formulation of anticoagulant nafamostat, which the drugmaker is testing (PDF) to treat COVID-19, as well as a separate mRNA vaccine candidate co-developed (PDF) with the University of Tokyo.

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Meanwhile, AstraZeneca is also working to build a manufacturing chain to supply the EU and U.S. with its potential vaccine, signing a suite of agreements to the tune of billions of doses per year.

In early June, Catalent agreed to produce "hundreds of millions of doses" of AstraZeneca's hopeful at its 305,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Anagni, Italy. It would not disclose financial terms of the deal, a spokesman said, but it's scheduled to begin producing those doses in August 2020 and to potentially continue through March 2022 if the vaccine receives full regulatory approval.

Before that, in early June, AstraZeneca and Emergent BioSolutions inked an $87 million deal to manufacture doses of Oxford's adenovirus-based COVID-19 shot for U.S. supply. That accord was part of the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed initiative to develop and rapidly scale production of targeted vaccines before the end of 2020.

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AstraZeneca also inked a deal in early June with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to manufacture and distribute 300 million doses of Oxford's vaccine by the end of 2020.

Separately, AZ agreed to a licensing deal with the Serum Institute of India to provide 1 billion doses of the vaccine to low- and middle-income countries, with the goal of 400 million produced by year-end. In total, the deals bring AstraZeneca's overall supply capacity for Oxford's vaccine to more than 2 billion doses per year, the drugmaker said.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include a comment from AstraZeneca.