AstraZeneca could earn vaccine profits soon: Deal documents

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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AstraZeneca, the UK-based pharmaceutical firm, which said it would not make profit from the vaccine during the pandemic period, could start earning from its COVID-19 shots as early as July 2021, media reports suggest, based on an agreement with a manufacturer.

The global pharmaceutical company earlier stated that it would provide the vaccine doses at a low price term until the pandemic lasts and now the reports show the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed this year between AstraZeneca and Brazilian public health organization, Fiocruz.

Read More: COVID-19 vaccine by year-end possible; WHO Chief

“Pandemic Period”

As per reports, the MoU defines “Pandemic Period” till July 1, 2021 and it can be extended beyond the date but only if the England-based AstraZeneca “acting in good faith considers that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is not over.”

The MoU encloses the conditions of a deal signed in July between the UK-based pharmaceuticals and Fiocruz, to produce at least 100 million vaccine shots, worth more than $300 million.

AstraZeneca, which developed the vaccine by collaborating with the  Oxford University, has entered into multiple supply and manufacture deals for more than 3 billion doses globally, but the details of the contract have been kept confidential. The vaccine is currently in its Phase 3 trials. 

The drug-makers and Oxford University have refused to comment on the questions regarding its deal with the Brazilian health organization and their definition for “pandemic period”.  

“From the outset, AstraZeneca’s approach has been to treat the development of the vaccine as a response to a global public health emergency, not a commercial opportunity. We continue to operate in that public spirit and we will seek expert guidance, including from global organizations, as to when we can say that the pandemic is behind us,” AstraZeneca said without addressing the deal or related reports. 

The company said it has created multiple supply chains to ensure that access to its vaccine is timely, broad and equitable for high and low-income countries, with capacity currently in exceeding three billion doses.

Ellen' t Hoen
Ellen ‘t Hoen-International Medical Activist

“Despite all the talk about the COVID-19 vaccine needing to be a ‘global public good’ by political leaders who spend billions on COVID-19 R&D, it seems that it is the drug companies that determine, in secret deals, who will get access to the vaccine and when.” 

Earlier Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca has said that the company’s estimation on when the coronavirus is supposed to end will be based on various factors including the assessment of the World Health Organization (WHO). At the same time, he refused to comment on the post-pandemic pricing scale of the vaccine.

Price of the vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine’s cost in the post-pandemic period is a debatable issue especially when companies including AstraZeneca have acquired millions of dollars from public to speed-up its development.

Some vaccine developers have declared from their initial stages itself that they can only work with a profit while firms like AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have agreed to work on a low-cost basis at least until the pandemic gets over.

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