The pharmaceutical company Sanofi will help produce millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and German company BioNTech in an effort to help meet the huge demand for the shots.
The French drugmaker in a statement Wednesday said it will provide BioNTech access to its "established infrastructure and expertise" in an unusual arrangement to produce more than 125 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Europe.
Initial supplies will originate from Sanofi’s production facilities in Frankfurt beginning this summer, the company said.
Pfizer and BioNTech have been looking for ways to increase vaccine supply. The companies have one of only two COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S.
Sanofi is collaborating with GlaxoSmithKline on its own COVID-19 vaccine candidate, and said developing that drug will continue to be a priority.
But the companies last month said their vaccine did not trigger enough of an immune response in people over the age of 50, delaying its launch until likely much later this year.
The move by Sanofi raises questions about whether other companies that have not succeeded in making effective coronavirus vaccines will follow suit in throwing their manufacturing power and expertise into helping the ones that have.
This week for instance, Merck said it was discontinuing the development of its two COVID-19 vaccine candidates because of weak immune responses.
Sanofi's CEO Paul Hudson said he recognizes the severity of the global pandemic requires some drastic steps, such as helping produce a competitor's vaccine.
"We are very conscious that the earlier vaccine doses are available, the more lives can potentially be saved. Today’s announcement is a pivotal step towards our industry’s collective goal of putting all the effort in to curb this pandemic,” Hudson said in a statement.
“Although vaccination campaigns have started around the world, the ability to get shots into arms is being limited by lower than expected supplies and delayed approval timelines owing to production shortages. We have made the decision to support BioNTech and Pfizer in manufacturing their COVID-19 vaccine in order to help address global needs, given that we have the technology and facilities to do so," Hudson said.