It is a blow for Valneva, the first French company to have developed a vaccine against Covid-19: the European Union has just massively reduced its dose order, leading biotech to suspend production.
The European Commission announced on Wednesday that it had reduced its order to 1.25 million doses, far from the 60 million doses provided for in the initial contract.
An “amendment to the initial agreement”
In detail, the Commission had signed an agreement with Valneva at the end of 2021 providing for the possibility for Member States to buy nearly 27 million doses of its inactivated vaccine in 2022, with 33 million additional doses in 2023. But, mid- May, it had showered the ambitions of biotech by announcing its intention to terminate this order, in a context of significant global production.
After two months of procrastination, the European Union finally announced on Wednesday an “amendment to the initial agreement” allowing member states to buy 1.25 million doses of the vaccine, which was authorized in June in the EU. for use as a primary series in adults aged 18 to 50 years.
Another source of disappointment for Valneva, whose headquarters are in France (in Nantes): this country did not wish to order it. The five countries to receive the doses of the serum in the coming weeks are Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland and Bulgaria.
“We do not understand this decision. Especially since there are still four million people who are not vaccinated in France ”, reacted Wednesday to AFP Franck Grimaud, the general manager of Valneva. “As a French company, we would have hoped for more concrete support,” adds the manager. Given the reduction in the volume of orders from Member States, Valneva has suspended its production of vaccines against Covid-19 for the time being.
Series of setbacks
“We can maintain this program (…) only if we have secured enough requests from States in Europe or outside Europe”, also underlined Franck Grimaud. The biotech is giving itself until the end of the summer to find new orders, in order to determine the future of its program.
Valneva’s serum, VLA2001, is the sixth vaccine approved in Europe, but the first using traditional inactivated virus technology, which the biotech says could win over reluctant unvaccinated people to newer messenger RNA technology. “Member states that want access to this vaccine will receive the doses they need in August and September,” the Commission said in a statement.
Valneva has multiplied the setbacks for a year: in September 2021, the British government, which had placed an order for 100 million doses of vaccines, had thus terminated its contract, a disappointment for the company which had caused its share price to fall. . The vaccine, however, was approved in the UK in April. It is also authorized in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, with a contract for one million doses.
“The Valneva vaccine adds a new option to the EU’s extensive vaccine portfolio and (…) we are offering the possibility to Member States who wish to offer it to their citizens”, commented the European Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides. “Increasing vaccination and boosters will be crucial over the coming months to protect our citizens,” she added.
The other five vaccines approved in the EU are the messenger RNA vaccines from the American-German duo Pfizer-BioNTech (2.4 billion doses purchased or reserved) and the American group Moderna (460 million); those of the Swedish-British laboratory AstraZeneca (400 million) and its American competitor Johnson & Johnson (400 million), which use a viral vector; and the Novavax vaccine (200 million), based on so-called protein subunit technology, which has been used for decades.