UPDATE 2-EU seals 2nd COVID-19 vaccine deal as deadline for WHO scheme looms
* Sanofi, GSK to supply up to 300 mln shots
* Deal comes on deadline day to join WHO's COVAX scheme
* Many wealthy countries still to join (Adds detail, background)
BRUSSELS/PARIS, Sept 18 (Reuters) - The European Union has agreed to buy a potential COVID-19 vaccine from Sanofi and GSK in its second such deal to secure supplies, as a deadline for joining the World Health Organization's (WHO) vaccine purchase program looms.
The deal will see the French and British drugmakers, which have teamed up to manufacture a recombinant protein-based vaccine they hope to get approved next year, provide the EU with up to 300 million doses, according to a tweet from European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
Friday's agreement confirms an announcement made on July 31 by the two companies and follows an earlier deal between the EU and AstraZeneca for up to 400 million shots.
In return for the right to the doses, the European Commission will finance part of the upfront costs faced by vaccine producers. The vaccine doses themselves will be bought by EU countries.
The latest deal comes on deadline day for members of the WHO to join its COVAX scheme, which aims to buy COVID-19 vaccines and ensure immunisations are then fairly and efficiently distributed.
So far, 92 lower-income nations are seeking assistance via COVAX, part of the WHO's ACT Accelerator to boost development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to combat the pandemic.
Some 80 higher-income nations have expressed interest, but many still have to join as they scramble to secure supplies separately.
France will provide funding for the initiative but will not source shots through it, an official at its health ministry said on Thursday, after Paris decided to be part of a joint scheme arranged through the EU.
There is currently no internationally-approved vaccine for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, which has claimed more than 946,000 lives globally and derailed the world economy.
For Sanofi and GSK, the deal follows a $2.1 billion agreement with the United States in July for 100 million doses, with an option for the U.S. government to purchase an additional 500 million, as well as a deal to deliver 60 million doses to the United Kingdom.
FACTBOX- The race FACTBOX-U.S., UK spend billions to take lead in securing coronavirus vaccines for a coronavirus vaccine
(Reporting by Phil Blenkinsop and Matthias Blamont; Editing by Mark Potter)
© Copyright Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved. The information contained in this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Reuters Ltd.