The European Commission said on Friday that it has concluded exploratory talks with French pharmaceutical company Sanofi aiming for a deal that could secure 300 million doses of the company's COVID-19 vaccine for Europeans next year.
It is part of a broader European Union (EU) campaign seeking to reach purchase agreements with major COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers.
"Today's step with Sanofi is a first important cornerstone of a much broader European Vaccines Strategy. More will follow soon," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
"We are in advanced discussions with several other companies. While we do not know today which vaccine will work best in the end, Europe is investing in a diversified portfolio of promising vaccines, based on various types of technologies," von der Leyen said.
Sanofi's vaccine candidate is planning to seek marketing authorization from the European Medicines Agency in June 2021 following Phase III clinical trials.
The commission said in a statement that it would have a contractual framework in place for the purchase of 300 million doses on behalf of all EU member states once Sanofi's vaccine has proven to be safe and effective against COVID-19.
According to the EU strategy for COVID-19 vaccines, the commission would finance part of the upfront costs faced by vaccine producers in the form of Advance Purchase Agreements. Funding provided would be considered as a down payment on the vaccines to be purchased by the EU member states.
Von der Leyen also said that a vaccine would be a global good, adding that the European Commission is committed to helping secure access to vaccines also for more vulnerable countries.
Earlier in May, Sanofi was under fire for remarks saying that once its vaccine under research goes to market, the U.S. had the right to pre-order because it has invested in it. The French authorities quickly reacted that the COVID-19 vaccine must be a "global public good."
Sanofi is among dozens of drug companies that are currently working on vaccine projects against COVID-19. Enditem