By Roxanne Liu and Tony Munroe
BEIJING (Reuters) – Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products will produce AstraZeneca Plc’s potential COVID-19 vaccine in mainland China, the British drugmaker said on Thursday, its first deal to supply one of the world’s most populous countries.
To meet market demand in China, Shenzhen Kangtai will ensure it has annual production capacity of at least 100 million doses of the experimental shot AZD1222, which AstraZeneca co-developed with researchers at Oxford University, by the end of this year, AstraZeneca said.
It must have capacity to produce at least 200 million doses by the end of next year as part of the exclusive framework agreement, its statement on the Chinese social media site WeChat added.
The two companies will also explore the possibility of cooperation on the vaccine candidate in other markets, AstraZeneca said.
There are no approved vaccines for COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has said AstraZeneca’s shot is one of the leading candidates.
The company has signed manufacturing deals globally to meet its target of making 2 billion doses of the vaccine.
The companies did not respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Hong Kong newsroom; Writing by Josephine Mason; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Jan Harvey)