November 05, 20 - 1:43 pm - Reuters

COVID-19 vaccine deliveries on ice as AstraZeneca awaits trial data: Chile and Peru to test the vaccine

A summer dip in UK coronavirus infections has pushed back test results for AstraZeneca‘s potential COVID-19 vaccine, leading the drugmaker to delay deliveries of shots to the UK government.

In Latin America, Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine is in late-stage trials in Brazil and Argentina in August made a deal to co-produce AstraZeneca’s vaccine with Mexico.

Also, on Wednesday, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said the country’s health regulator had given the go-ahead for clinical trials of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. He said the AstraZeneca trial would follow one by America’s Johnson & Johnson that is already underway and another by China’s Sinovac, whose first vaccine doses arrived in Chile on Wednesday.

Chile also had signed a purchase agreement with Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech SE for 10 million doses of the vaccine they are jointly developing, and was working on similar agreements with AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Sinovac.

Chile’s government has previously said it had reserved 14.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and incorporated a clause into its agreement for the Sinovac trial for the preferential purchase of 20 million doses.

Also on Wednesday, Peru said Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca laboratories would begin trials of coronavirus vaccines in the country next week.

Two weeks ago, Peru said it had withdrawn from signing a coronavirus vaccine purchase agreement with AstraZeneca because it did not provide data on its vaccine studies.

Britain’s vaccines chief said on Wednesday it would receive just 4 million doses of the potential vaccine this year, against initial estimates for 30 million by Sept. 30.

AstraZeneca said on Thursday it was holding back deliveries while it awaits the data from late-stage clinical trials in order to maximize the shelf-life of supplies.

It is keeping the vaccine frozen in large containers, and will only add a final ingredient, put it into vials and keep it at fridge temperature when the vaccine gets closer to approval.

FILE PHOTO: The company logo for pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“We are a little bit late in deliveries, which is why the vaccine has been kept in frozen form,” CEO Pascal Soriot said on a conference call.

However, he added AstraZeneca was “fully” prepared to launch the vaccine when it is ready, adding the company’s weekly delivery schedule should roughly match what the UK government has in mind for its vaccination plans.

AstraZeneca and its partner on the project, the University of Oxford, said data from late-stage trials should land this year. If successful, the pair will file for emergency approvals in as many countries as possible at the same time, Soriot said.

The British duo are racing with Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and others to publish the first detailed results from large COVID-19 vaccine trials. A vaccine is seen as the world’s best bet for beating a pandemic that has led to more than 1.2 million deaths, roiled economies and disrupted billions of lives.

Earlier this year, AstraZeneca also agreed to start supplying millions of doses by the end of 2020 to the United States, the European Union and poorer nations through epidemic response group CEPI and vaccine alliance GAVI, subject to the results of the trials and regulatory approval.

The company hopes the shot will be effective for at least a year, but only trial data can confirm this.

(Co-written by LABS)