Berlin has selected three different German biotech companies to support in their development of potential COVID-19 vaccines, and has earmarked up to €750m (£690m, $891m)to help fund their research, development and, if successful, production.
Education and research minister Anja Karliczek said that BioNTech (BNTX), which has partnered with US pharma company Pfizer (PFE), will receive €375m from the government. It is currently working on developing three different mRNA vaccine candidates.
CureVac (CVAC), focused on one potential mRNA vaccine candidate, will get €230m of funding. The government is finalising talks with a third company, IDT Biologika.
Karliczek told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday that the companies will not get the money in a lump sum, “but in stages, based on achieving certain milestones.”
The agreement with the three domestic companies would guarantee Germany 40 million doses of vaccine. The country will also have access to the 400 million doses of the EU-procured vaccine from AstraZeneca (AZN.L) if it turns out to be successful.
“It is not about being the first or the fastest, but about having a safe vaccine,” said health minister Jens Spahn at a press conference in Berlin, adding that it was essential to keep people’s trust.
He reckons a vaccine will be ready in the first half of 2021, but that the logistics of how it will be distributed, who should get it first and so on still need to be worked out.
Spahn added it was important to keep vaccination voluntary, and that the government is confident that about 55% of people will accept the vaccine, which would result in herd immunity.
The health minister said that Germany was well prepared for autumn and winter, and well-equipped with intensive care beds.
He said that Germany’s relatively low number of infections compared with many of its EU neighbours has a lot to do with the fact that the most citizens have integrated the rules on social distancing, hand washing, and wearing mask into their daily lives.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, Germany has had 264,375 confirmed COVID-19 cases to date, and 9,366 deaths from the virus. However, like most EU countries, it experienced a surge in cases in August.