AstraZeneca’s vaccine hopes are pinned overseas because it runs out in the UK

When Pascal Soriot announced AstraZeneca’s New vaccine strategy He could hardly conceal his anger. After developing a low-cost jab to push his company to the forefront of the fight against the new crown virus, the CEO seemed frustrated that he had not received the acclaim he had expected.

“I know some people find it unbelievable, but we did start this project to help,” he told reporters last week.

this Anglo-Swiss Pharmaceuticals Refuse to profit from it initially 2 billion vaccines It was done in cooperation with Oxford University, and competitors made billions of dollars. This year it lost 3 cents per share on vaccines.

But frustrations, from delayed delivery to rare side effects and lower than mRNA jab efficiency, have become false headlines. Last week, Soriot appeared to be preparing for a new wave of criticism after announcing that the company will now make a decision. “Moderate” profit In high-income and middle-income countries, while maintaining the non-profit nature of vaccines for the poorest people.

“We also said that at some point in the future, we will transition [to] Commercial orders, but it will never be high, because we want everyone around the world to be able to afford vaccines,” he said. “It has a future, but it is definitely not a source of huge profits that we think. That’s for sure. ”

Condemnation quickly followed: activists questioned why the company turned to a “local Covid” strategy when the pandemic was clearly not over. Soriot said he consulted experts before calling, but people familiar with the matter said that this does not include the World Health Organization.

The bigger question facing AstraZeneca vaccine in the future is: Who will buy it?

The United States has not yet approved, the EU and Pfizer’s huge order has been extended to 2023. Even its home country, the United Kingdom, refused to accept AstraZeneca’s injections: Although it administered about 50 million doses in total, safety report data estimated that AstraZeneca had injected a maximum of 400,000 injections in the three months to the beginning of November.

Professor Azeem Majeed, head of the Department of Primary Care and Public Health at Imperial College London, said: “It was very helpful to us in the first phase of its launch, but the AstraZeneca vaccine is now exhausted in the UK.”

Exit booster activity

AstraZeneca’s most recent painful experience came from the UK’s decision to use Pfizer to power its booster activities, although the company still ordered tens of millions of local injections, officially called Vaxzevria. This is a stark reversal for a government that celebrated with Britain’s best shots and invested public funds to help achieve it.

According to data from the health analysis company Airfinity, in February, the deliveries of AstraZeneca and Pfizer were evenly distributed, but by September, the balance had seriously shifted to the US Pharmaceutical Group, which accounted for 92% of the delivered dose. Approximately 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine have been discarded, although this is lower than health officials predicted.

Pascal Soriot
Chief Executive Pascal Soriot stated that vaccines “will never be expensive because we want everyone around the world to be able to afford them” © Charlie Bibby/FT

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, a government advisory body, chose Pfizer and Moderna as the first choice vaccines for the UK’s intensive vaccination campaign, partly based on a study that found that AstraZeneca recipients received a dose of Pfizer vaccine for better efficacy, partly because Is worried about a rare side effect. A person familiar with the discussion said that consultants are reluctant to recommend AstraZeneca to people who have previously received Pfizer vaccines because there is no need to risk the side effects of the first dose of AstraZeneca injections.

People familiar with AstraZeneca’s internal thinking say that the CEO’s anger at being excluded is even stronger due to little or no advance warning. A person familiar with the matter said that although he is not a “territory”, he had expected his company’s products to be part of the campaign along with mRNA vaccines.

The chart shows that data from England shows that AstraZeneca provides less protection than mRNA vaccines

Two people familiar with the matter said that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and AstraZeneca jabbed the cheerleader, and he himself regretted being excluded. A few days after Johnson announced that he would play a small role in the promotion of boosters in the UK, when visiting the country, Johnson publicly showed his advantages to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Some people within the company believed that they might have been outflanked by Pfizer’s excellent government relations department. Another person familiar with vaccine work linked it to the government’s decision to purchase an additional 60 million doses of Pfizer in April, implying that it needs to be used up before expiration to justify public funding.

The government stated that after extensive clinical trials have found that Pfizer and Moderna can provide the best protection, an “independent JCVI recommendation” will use Pfizer and Moderna to strengthen the plan.

It added that the AstraZeneca vaccine “played an important role in the early stages of our vaccination program, protecting millions of people and saving lives, and will continue to be used in our vaccination program for people over 40 years of age”.

Early research results may not be the final proof that Pfizer is the best booster. According to the chosen protocol, the third dose is given 10 to 12 weeks after the second dose to produce results at the end of summer. Clive Dix, the former interim chair of the UK Vaccine Working Group, said this will make mRNA injections look better because they provide a “strong early response.”

Overseas opportunities

Nonetheless, Soriot and his team are now focusing on opportunities outside the UK, believing that their vaccine may become the booster of choice for middle-income countries, according to a close discussion. The individual described the British effort as “a juggling” and added that Soriot was “focused on the global market, not whether Mary in Maidenhead got a boost”.

A senior British official with direct knowledge agreed that AstraZeneca “has no real future in the UK”, but said: “AZ has a future in the rest of the world because it is easy to handle and it is a good vaccine.”

AstraZeneca recently signed the first profitable vaccine contract, but has not yet revealed which countries are at the other end of these deals. The company may find the most willing buyers in countries that rely on Chinese vaccines, which seem to be less effective, especially for the Delta Covid variant.

Soliote pointed to a large Latin American study where he said that the results were “very good” when using AstraZeneca as a booster following China’s SinoVac vaccine CoronaVac. According to data from health analysis company Airfinity, Sinovac has provided 2.1 billion injections so far, of which Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil are the countries that have received the most injection doses outside of China.

Delivery of Pfizer vaccines at a medical center in London
The Pfizer vaccine was delivered at a medical center in London.AstraZeneca’s vaccine sells for about US$3 to US$4, while Pfizer’s recent contract price is about US$22 ©Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Although it is large, it is not a particularly attractive market for investors. They are full of desire for AstraZeneca’s products and pipelines in high-priced fields such as oncology and large markets such as China.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is currently priced at approximately US$3 to US$4, while Pfizer’s recent contract price is approximately US$22. The British company has not yet defined the meaning of “moderate” profit, but Soriot made it clear that this is far below Pfizer’s expected high profit margin of 20 percentage points. AstraZeneca must also pay 6% of sales to Oxford.

Credit Suisse predicts that AstraZeneca will generate US$1 billion in revenue from Covid vaccines next year — and Pfizer has booked US$29 billion in the 2022 contract — which is just the amount of the British group’s estimated total revenue of US$42 billion. a small part.

Although AstraZeneca is setting up a department to produce vaccines and other products for the treatment of viral respiratory diseases, analysts believe that this is not the beginning of major investments in vaccines. Credit Suisse analyst Joe Walton said the new department is a way of “buying time.”

“If they continue on a non-profit basis, people may keep asking,’How long have you been doing this?’ They will have to make a decision,” she said.

Walton said that over time, longer-duration new studies may show that AstraZeneca vaccine can provide a good booster for people receiving mRNA vaccines, or there may be ways to take advantage of the company’s other products. Expertise on development.

She added: “I think we are just waiting to see if the vaccine subunits within the company will produce something bigger over time.”

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