AstraZeneca nets $396M down payment from EU for 300M-plus COVID vaccines

AstraZeneca has been on roll lately, inking COVID-19 vaccine supply deals left and right with countries worldwide. One of its highest-profile pacts—a purchase deal with the EU—was made official earlier this month, and now, the trading bloc has floated a price for its initial supply order.

The European Commission put up a €336 million ($396 million) down payment to secure its first 300 million doses of AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford's coronavirus hopeful, AZD1222, a Commission spokesperson told Reuters Thursday.

Under the deal, announced Thursday, all 27 EU member states have the option to purchase vaccines from the AZ stockpile, though the price per dose each nation is expected to pay remains under wraps. The EU also has an option to purchase 100 million more doses from AZ at a later date, if its adenovirus-based shot wins out in the clinic. 

The EU supply deal builds on an earlier pact between AstraZeneca and the European Inclusive Vaccines alliance, led by Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands. Under that deal, the four EU states agreed to buy 300 million shots for €750 million ($843 million).

RELATED: With AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine deal in the bag, Australia looks to CSL for production help

The newly unveiled down payment will help fund development and liability costs on AstraZeneca's end, the commission said in its release.

“In order to compensate for such high risks taken by manufacturers, the Advanced Purchase Agreements provide for member states to indemnify the manufacturer for liabilities incurred under certain conditions,” it said, adding that "liability still remains with the companies."

Those risks may be heightened as shot makers hustle to push a vaccine across the regulatory finish line at breakneck speeds. In late July, Reuters reported that EU vaccine supply deals with at least six shot makers had hit snags over payment methods, costs and liability concerns. At the time, Johnson & Johnson's negotiations were reportedly in the "most advanced" stage, according to the report, but had stumbled over coverage of potential, unforeseen side effects.

RELATED: Europe's COVID-19 vaccine negotiations hit snags with 3 drugmakers: Reuters

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca made a similar vaccine commitment to the U.S. The U.K. drug giant in May scored a $1.2 billion cash infusion from the U.S. government for development, production and delivery of its shot in the fall. The deal, penned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' BARDA agency, teed up about 300 million vaccine doses for delivery to the U.S. 

More recently, the White House floated the possibility of fast tracking AstraZeneca's vaccine for authorization ahead of the U.S. Presidential election, but the British pharma said via email that it wasn't in talks for an emergency nod, adding that it didn't expect efficacy results until late this year. 

Elsewhere, AstraZeneca has pledged 120 million doses of its vaccine to Japan, where drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo will tackle packaging and storage. And earlier this month, Brazil upgraded its existing pact with AZ, setting aside $360 million for at least 100 million vaccine doses, plus licensing rights to produce the shot in-country at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, also known as Fiocruz, should the vaccines prove effective. 

AstraZeneca's shot is working through in phase 2/3 testing in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa. The company also aims to enroll phase 3 patients in the U.S.