BRUSSELS, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- The European Commission has signed contract with pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson (J&J), which will enable European Union (EU) member states to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for up to 400 million people, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.
Spokesperson Stefan de Keersmaecker told a press briefing that the contract with J&J was the third one signed by the commission on behalf of the whole EU.
"Another step closer to finding a safe and effective long-term solution to the crisis for EU citizens," European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides tweeted after signing the contract on Wednesday.
The vaccine candidate developed by J&J is in phase 3 of clinical trials. The company anticipates the first batches of a COVID-19 vaccine to be available for emergency use authorization in early 2021, if proven to be safe and effective.
The contract with J&J was in addition to those signed with AstraZeneca and Sanofi-Gsk, according to the spokesperson.
The commission will continue to put the finishing touches to agreements with other companies as well and determine to acquire a large and diversified portfolio of candidates for vaccine, Keersmaecker said.
As of Oct. 19, a total of 44 candidate vaccines were in clinical trials worldwide, including several from China, the United Kingdom, Russia, the United States, Belgium and Germany in Phase 3 trial. Another 154 candidate vaccines were in preclinical evaluation, according to the World Health Organization.