AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson say they don’t intend to profit from the pandemic
Thursday 04 Feb 2021 Author: Martin Gamble

The price of Covid-19 vaccines have been put under the spotlight after Pfizer said it should generate around $15 billion in sales during 2021 from its Covid-19 vaccine, higher than its previous estimate. Global industry vaccine sales before the pandemic were around $33 billion.

AstraZeneca (AZN) has always maintained that it will supply its vaccine at cost in perpetuity to low and middle-income countries. For other countries, the company has priced its vaccine at under $4 per dose, the cheapest of the three approved mainstream drugs, although South Africa revealed it had paid $5.25 compared with the $2.15 paid by the EU.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has a price tag of $10 a dose which is competitive with AstraZeneca if only one dose is needed.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is priced at $20 a dose while Moderna’s is the most expensive at around $37 or close to 10 times the cost of AstraZeneca’s.

Rich nations would reap huge economic benefits if they paid the approximate $27 billion costs to vaccinate developing nations against Covid-19, according to a study commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation.

The report concluded that failure to act would cost the global economy $9.2 trillion, half of which would fall on rich nations.

This puts into perspective the spat between the UK and the EU over a shortfall in deliveries of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine.

AstraZeneca warned the EU that it could only supply a quarter of the initial 100 million doses in the first three months of the year due to supply chain issues. The EU has ordered 300 million doses with an option for a further 100 million. The EU Medicines Agency approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use on 29 January.

US biotech firm Moderna caused dismay after it told France and Italy it was delivering 20% fewer doses than promised. Similarly, the UK’s first approved vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech has suffered delivery delays highlighting the logistical challenges faced by companies in meeting demand.

The good news is that two new vaccines could be available soon after Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine showed 66% effectiveness in phase three trials and Novavax’s vaccine was said to 89% effective according to interim trial data.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is potentially game changing because it only requires one dose and can be stored and transported at normal refrigerator temperatures. Novavax said its vaccine performed well against the new, more virulent strains.

Data from the National Audit Office shows the UK has secured 267 million doses of five different vaccines at a cost of $2.9 billion. [MG]

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