Britain’s AstraZeneca joined forces with the University of Oxford on Thursday to help develop, produce and distribute a potential COVID-19 vaccine, as drugmakers around the world race to find a solution to the deadly disease. UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma welcomed the tie-up as a vital step to making the Oxford vaccine available as soon as possible if it succeeds in clinical trials. A team of British scientists last week dosed the first volunteers, and earlier this month said large-scale production capacity was being put in place to make millions of doses even before trials show whether it is effective. Only a handful of the vaccines in development have advanced to human trials, an indicator of safety and efficacy - and the stage where most vaccines fail. “Our hope is that, by joining forces, we can accelerate the globalisation of a vaccine to combat the virus and protect people from the deadliest pandemic in a generation,” AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said.