French pharmaceutical company Sanofi will fill and pack millions of doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine from July in an effort to help meet the huge demand for the US drugmaker’s shots.
The French company will aim to help supply more than 100 million doses of the vaccine this year from its German plant in Frankfurt, CEO Paul Hudson told Le Figaro newspaper.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech are, like other COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers such as AstraZeneca, struggling to meet the huge demand for shots that are the world’s best bet for overcoming the pandemic.
Last month, Sanofi and Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline said a COVID-19 vaccine they are jointly developing had shown an insufficient immune response in older people, delaying its launch to late this year.
The company has been under pressure since to seek ways of helping with COVID-19 vaccines devised by other drugmakers as the pandemic intensifies again in Europe and elsewhere.
“Since our main vaccine is a few months late, we asked ourselves how we could be of assistance now,” Hudson was quoted as saying.
Sanofi is also working on another COVID-19 vaccine candidate with US firm Translate Bio which uses mRNA technology, similar to the approach of Pfizer/BioNTech. Phase I trials are expected to start this quarter.
Hudson confirmed in the interview that Sanofi remains committed to its two vaccine projects.
The news of Sanofi’s involvement comes as Britain and the European Union are engaged in a vaccine stand-off, after Brussels demanded the diversion of coronavirus jabs produced in Oxford and Keele to make up for shortfalls on the continent.
Europe’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, sent a blunt message to pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca after it announced a 60 per cent cut in projected supplies for the EU, telling the Anglo-Swedish company that it was obliged to hand over doses intended for the UK.
AstraZeneca insisted that its contracts made clear that the UK had first claim on vaccines produced domestically, and said its agreement with the European Commission was based on a promise to make “best efforts” to deliver the doses, but did not commit the company to a specific timetable.