Johnson & Johnson in talks to supply COVID-19 vaccine in Europe: reports

After a COVID-19 vaccine deal between four European countries and AstraZeneca, another pharma giant is reportedly in advanced talks to supply its candidate in Europe should it prove safe and effective.

Johnson & Johnson is negotiating with the European Commission to supply its coronavirus vaccine candidate if it succeeds in testing, Reuters reports. The drugmaker plans to start a phase 1/2a test next month under an accelerated timeline unveiled last week.

Beyond that, the company is involved in Operation Warp Speed in the U.S., where officials plan to start late-stage testing for the candidate in September, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

News of the talks comes after Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands reached a deal to secure 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s potential vaccine for €750 million. That candidate is farther along in development after starting a phase 2/3 trial in May.

Both AstraZeneca and J&J have already signed development deals with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Under AstraZeneca’s $1.2 billion agreement, the drugmaker pledged 300 million doses to the U.S. starting in October. J&J also has a $456 million deal with BARDA, and it promises to scale up manufacturing alongside R&D.

Meanwhile, Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson has said that the U.S., after providing upfront BARDA funding for its vaccine work, expects early access to vaccine doses. Sanofi is also negotiating a potential access deal with Europe, a source told Reuters.

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The developments underscore regional efforts to ensure early access to COVID-19 shots ahead of a worldwide vaccination push reaching billions of people. But even as candidates race forward, signs of hesitance have emerged. A new survey showed only half of Americans plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and many are uncertain.  

Meanwhile, experts have raised warnings about “vaccine nationalism” and have said wealthy nations' deals to secure doses threaten poorer countries. AstraZeneca, to address that concern, has inked deals with global groups and the Serum Institute of India to provide shots in low- and middle- income countries.