British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday that pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has reached an agreement with the Serum Institute of India to supply one billion doses of COVAX vaccine to low and middle-income countries.
During his speech at the 75th high-level debate of the United National General Assembly (UNGA) on Saturday, Boris Johnson also said that the Oxford vaccine (COVAX) is now in stage 3 of clinical trials and that AstraZeneca has already begun to manufacture millions of doses.
“The Oxford vaccine is now in stage 3 of clinical trials, and in case of success, AstraZeneca has already begun to manufacture millions of doses, in readiness for rapid distribution. They [AstraZeneca] have reached an agreement with the Serum Institute of India to supply one billion doses to low and middle-income countries,” Boris Johnson said.
In a pre-recorded speech to the UNGA, Boris Johnson also committed 500 million pounds (USD 636 million) through the global COVAX vaccine-procurement pool to help 92 of the world’s poorest countries obtain a coronavirus vaccine, should one become available.
COVAX, the vaccine candidate developed by the Jenner Institute of Oxford University in collaboration with British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, is currently the forerunner in the vaccine race.
As an example of British leadership and generosity, Boris Johnson further noted Oxford University researchers had immediately shared a discovery that a cheap medicine called dexamethasone reduces the risk of death by over a third for patients on ventilators. He also referred to efforts in Britain by Oxford and drugmaker AstraZeneca to develop and manufacture a vaccine.
“It would be futile to treat the quest for a vaccine as a contest for narrow national advantage and immoral to seek a head start through obtaining research by underhand means?,” he said.
“The health of every country depends on the whole world having access to a safe and effective vaccine, wherever a breakthrough might occur; and, the UK, we will do everything in our power to bring this about,?” he further said.
Boris Johnson – who contracted Covid-19 in the spring and spent three nights in intensive care – also called for countries to share data to create a global early-warning system for disease outbreaks, and urged countries to stop slapping export controls on essential goods, as many have done during the pandemic.
Boris Johnson said that the coronavirus pandemic has frayed the bonds between nations, and urged world leaders to unite against the “common foe” of Covid-19. “Never again must we wage 193 separate campaigns against the same enemy,” he said.
He further announced that the UK is boosting its funding for the World Health Organisation (WHO) by 30 per cent, to 340 million pounds (USD 432 million) over the next four years.
Boris Johnson also set out a plan for preventing another global pandemic, including a network of zoonotic research labs around the world to identify dangerous pathogens before they leap from animals to humans.
(With inputs from AP)