LONDON (Reuters) - The CEPI global health group, which is backing nine potential COVID-19 vaccines, has agreed to buy 100 million vials from Italian pharma glassmaker Stevanato as part of efforts to secure vaccine supplies to control the coronavirus pandemic.
The vials will be enough to hold up to 2 billion doses, if and when one or more of the potential vaccines in development prove effective, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI) said.
“This supply is part of CEPI’s efforts to rapidly speed up the vaccine development timeline through making progress on manufacturing in parallel with the clinical development of COVID-19 candidate vaccines,” it said in a statement.
CEPI told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday it had identified pharmaceutical manufacturers with capacity to produce four billion COVID-19 vaccine doses a year.
Glass vials are a critical component of immunisation programmes. Without them, vaccines cannot be stored or delivered, and patients cannot be vaccinated.
Drugmakers have already been warning of a potential shortage of vials to bottle future COVID-19 vaccines.
CEPI, which is backed by 14 governments, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Britain’s Wellcome Trust, has deployed up to $829 million so far in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine through partnerships with nine drug developers.
With this deal, Stevanato - which says it produces 10 billion units a year of drug delivery systems, sterile and bulk glass containers, and diagnostic and medical components - will become a key supplier in CEPI’s COVID-19 vaccine plans.
CEPI says the ultimate goal is to speed up COVID-19 vaccine development to get a successful vaccine within 12 to 18 months.
Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Mark Potter