After setbacks to its own vaccine candidate, the major drug developer has agreed to aide in production for Europe-bound doses.
Sanofi, one of the largest drug and vaccine producers in the world, has agreed to bottle and package at least 125 million doses of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine BNT162b2 from Pfizer and BioNTech.
The France-based company will use its Frankfurt facilities to aide in late-stage production for the vaccines from their pharmaceutical rivals, for distribution in the European Union, beginning this summer, according to an announcement made Wednesday.
In the meantime, Sanofi remains engaged in the development of its own COVID-19 vaccine, in collaboration with partner GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The group most recently delayed its vaccine production and real-world assessment after observed failure to produce a strong immune response in older participants of a phase 1/2 trial.
The UK had originally ordered 60 million doses of the Sanofi and GSK vaccine, which investigators reported last month as having a low immune response in participants aged ≥50 years old, likely due to “insufficient concentration of the antigen.”
This setback, combined with shortcomings in Pfizer-BioNTech production and delays from the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccine—as well as a highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variant first observed in southeast England—has put significant strain on the region’s immunity-building efforts.
Though the UK has administered more than 7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses as of this week, they also recently surpassed 100,000 deaths from the virus.
In a statement accompanying the new partnership, Sanofi chief executive officer Paul Hudson acknowledged the need for expedited COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
“We are very conscious that the earlier vaccine doses are available, the more lives can potentially be saved,” he said.
Pfizer made headlines last week following reports that they would be counting supplemental doses uncovered in overfilled vaccine vials towards its 200 million-dose commitment with the US government.
In the following days, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an updated label allowing a potential extra dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to be extracted using low dead-volume syringes.