Partnering to deliver a Covid-19 vaccine made for the world

In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a worldwide pandemic. Since first discovery in late 2019, the virus spread rapidly around the world – infecting hundreds of millions and bringing life in every corner of the planet to a near standstill. 

By April 2020, AstraZeneca had solidified its commitment to find tangible solutions to overcome the pandemic and announced a landmark agreement with the University of Oxford to collaborate on the development of a vaccine. The partnership, which was created in just ten days, brought the world-class expertise in vaccinology and innovative vaccine platform research from the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford together with AstraZeneca’s extensive manufacturing and global development experience.

By combining these skills and a joint determination, the vaccine was developed in record time. Vaccine development usually takes a decade or longer, but faced with a global pandemic, the teams innovated at every stage of the process to deliver at speed without compromising on scientific integrity, quality or safety. This included introducing more investigators at sites to recruit over 60,000 participants across five continents in a few months.

Key to the unique partnership was a shared belief that the only route out of the global health crisis was for broad and equitable access to the vaccine across the world, at no profit during the pandemic.

To enable global supply, AstraZeneca collaborated with vaccine manufacturers across the world, sharing technology to increase production capacity. AstraZeneca built more than a dozen regional supply chains, working with more than 20 partners, including four with sub-licensing agreements. The supply chains are supported by an analytical testing network with more than two dozen testing sites globally.

Normally, evidence that a product works is required to initiate manufacturing. In this case it was agreed to start production of the vaccine at risk, so that if proven to be effective, not a single day would be lost in rolling it out.

To further support its commitment to equitable access, AstraZeneca was the first global industry partner to join COVAX – the multilateral global initiative co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance, and WHO – working together with UNICEF and other organisations to distribute Covid-19 vaccines equitably across the world. Together with AstraZeneca’s sublicensing partner the Serum Institute of India, hundreds of millions of doses were committed to be made available through this important programme.

In less than nine months, AstraZeneca delivered an effective and well tolerated vaccine that began to be rolled out broadly and equitably across the world. In just over a year, more than a billion doses had been supplied to more than 170 countries, with the majority having been supplied to low- and middle-income countries. Critically, this is helping to protect the most vulnerable populations in the world, including many countries that may otherwise not have had access to Covid-19 vaccines.

Developing, producing, and supplying a vaccine for the world is an extraordinarily complicated challenge, and many lessons have been learned along on the way. By working in partnership and applying these learnings, we can bring much-needed relief to the world’s most vulnerable communities and have a chance to bring an end to the global pandemic. There is still a long way to go, and the work continues.

Good health and well-being
Partnerships for the goals