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Wockhardt strikes deal to supply COVID-19 vaccines to UK

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Indian drugmaker Wockhardt Ltd WCKH.NS will supply millions of doses of multiple COVID-19 vaccines, including that being developed by AstraZeneca AZN.L and Oxford University, under a deal with the UK government announced on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Shares of Wockhardt jumped 10% after the news in a downcast Mumbai market. [.BO]

The company has reserved fill-and-finish capacity - the final manufacturing step of putting vaccines into vials or syringes and packaging them - as part of the agreement, it said.

This is the latest step by the UK to secure supplies and production of COVID-19 vaccines after striking four deals with drugmakers to buy their potential shots.

“Fill finish is a critical step in the process to get the vaccine in a form to be given to patients. The agreement with Wockhardt will boost our capability to ensure that,” Kate Bingham, chair of UK Vaccines Task Force, said in a statement.

The UK government has also reserved one fill-and-finish production line at a Wockhardt subsidiary in Wrexham, Wales for its exclusive use for the next 18 months to secure supply. It is expected to start the Wexham line in September.

AstraZeneca has indicated it would need 30 million fill-and-finish doses of their vaccine candidate, which the company intends to supply in the next few months, Wockhardt Chairman Habil Khorakiwala said during a virtual press briefing.

The company has a fill-and-finish manufacturing capacity of 400 million doses in the UK and 600 million in India, for a combined capacity of 1 billion, Khorakiwala said.

More than 150 vaccines are being developed and tested around the world to stop the pandemic, with 26 in human clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization.

AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s vaccine candidate is seen as one of the frontrunners in the race to fight the pandemic.

Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar and Anuron Kumar Mitra; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Anil D’Silva