Under a deal with the UK government announced today (Aug 3), Indian pharmaceutical giant Wockhardt will supply millions of doses of multiple Covid-19 vaccines, including one that’s being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
“Today we have secured additional capacity to manufacture millions of doses of multiple Covid-19 candidates, guaranteeing the supply of vaccines we need to protect people across the UK rapidly and in large numbers,” said business secretary Alok Sharma in a statement.
This is the latest step by the UK to secure supplies and production of Covid-19 vaccines after striking four deals with drugmakers to buy their potential shots.
The agreement would see Wockhardt carry out the ‘fill and finish’ stage of the manufacturing process, which involves dispensing the manufactured vaccine substance into vials ready for it to be distributed.
“Fill finish is a critical step in the process to get the vaccine in a form to be given to patients. The agreement with Wockhardt will boost our capability to ensure that,” Kate Bingham, chair of UK Vaccines Task Force, said in a statement.
The government has reserved one fill-and-finish production line at a Wockhardt subsidiary in Wrexham, Wales for its exclusive use for the next 18 months to secure supply. It is expected to start the Wexham line in September.
AstraZeneca has indicated it would need 30 million fill-and-finish doses of their vaccine candidate, which the company intends to supply in the next few months, Wockhardt Chairman Habil Khorakiwala said during a virtual press briefing.
Wockhardt has a fill-and-finish manufacturing capacity of 400 million doses in the UK and 600 million in India, for a combined capacity of 1 billion, he added.
Speaking about the contract, Ravi Limaye, managing director Wockhardt UK said, “We are immensely proud to have been selected to partner with the UK government on this project. In doing so we are taking a lead role in the nation’s fight against pandemic of COVID-19.
“We have a sophisticated sterile manufacturing facility and a highly skilled workforce. We expect to start delivering the first doses of the vaccine later this year.”
More than 150 vaccines are being developed and tested around the world to stop the pandemic, with 26 in human clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization.
AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s vaccine candidate is seen as one of the frontrunners in the race to fight the pandemic.
(With input from Reuters)