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EXCLUSIVE-Teva Pharm in talks to co-produce COVID-19 vaccines, CEO says

(Adds details)

JERUSALEM, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is in talks with COVID-19 vaccine makers to co-produce some shots, chief executive Kare Schultz told Reuters on Wednesday.

Schultz said Teva, the world’s largest generics drugmaker, both approached and was approached by vaccine makers. It declined to name the companies with which it was in discussions.

“We do have some discussions with originators of the original vaccines. We have not come to any conclusions,” Schultz said after the drugmaker issued fourth-quarter financial results.

“In principle, we are positive towards contributing by manufacturing some of those vaccines that either have been approved or are just about to be approved,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Governments around the world are racing to access vaccines and inoculate their citizens against the coronavirus. The urgency of doing so has increased with the discovery of new variants to the virus that have been shown to reduce the efficacy of some vaccines.

Vaccine supplies are limited due to production constraints for vaccine makers, including Pfizer Inc, and its German partner BioNTech, as well as Moderna and AstraZeneca Plc.

To help to increase supply, several pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis and Sanofi, have agreed to allocate some manufacturing to their industry peers.

Teva has been a significant partner with Pfizer in Israel’s successful inoculation rollout. Its SLE logistics division handles all the vaccines in an underground facility near Israel’s main airport. Thirty large freezers set to minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit) can hold 5 million doses.

SLE repackages them into bundles as small as 100 doses and these are delivered to about 400 vaccine centres.

Teva has 61 global manufacturing sites, although Schultz said it planned to close or divest 11 of those.

More than half of eligible Israelis - about 3.5 million people - have now been fully or partially vaccinated. Older and at-risk groups, the first to be inoculated, are seeing a dramatic drop in illnesses. (Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Jan Harvey and Jane Merriman)

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