AstraZeneca vaccine document shows limit of nonprofit engagement

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AstraZeneca, which has promised not to take advantage of its Covid-19 vaccine “during the pandemic”, has the right to declare the pandemic end as early as July 2021, according to an agreement with a manufacturer.

The UK pharmaceutical company, which is developing a candidate vaccine with the University of Oxford, said it will provide doses on a cost basis for at least as long as the pandemic lasts.

However, a memorandum of understanding between AstraZeneca and a Brazilian manufacturer, which has been seen by the Financial Times, defines the “pandemic period” as ending on July 1, 2021. The period could be extended but only if “AstraZeneca acting good faith considers that the SARS-COV-2 pandemic is not over, ”he said.

But cases around the world show no signs of abating. Even optimistic forecasts predict that an approved vaccine is unlikely to be widely available for public immunization campaigns until the middle of next year.

The MoU outlines the terms of an agreement signed in July between AstraZeneca and Fiocruz, a Brazilian public health facility, to produce at least 100 million doses of vaccine, worth more than $ 300 million.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, previously said a number of factors would influence the company’s assessment of the end of the pandemic, including the World Health Organization’s own analysis, but without to be more precise. He also declined to disclose a post-pandemic price.

The future cost of any approved vaccine is a contentious issue after pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, received hundreds of millions of dollars in public money to accelerate development. Some companies said early on that they could only develop the vaccine for profit. Others, like AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, have agreed to provide doses on a cost basis for at least as long as the pandemic lasts.

Several drug companies have already signed sales agreements with governments, but the terms of the contracts are confidential and few details have been released.

AstraZeneca declined to answer specific questions regarding its definition of “pandemic period” or the Fiocruz deal.

“From the outset, AstraZeneca’s approach has been to treat vaccine development as a response to a global public health emergency, not a business opportunity,” the company said in a statement. “We continue to operate in this public spirit and will seek advice from experts, including global organizations, on when we can say the pandemic is behind us.”

Oxford University also declined to answer specific questions. “The terms of our agreement are confidential but respect Oxford’s commitment to fair and equitable access to the vaccine for the duration of the pandemic if it proves effective in our global phase 3 clinical trials,” said the ‘university.

Public health experts say many of the vaccine deals, including those involving AstraZeneca, are shrouded in secrecy, offering little room for scrutiny.

Manuel Martin, adviser on medical innovation and access policy at Médecins Sans Frontières, said that the terms of the MoU Fiocruz gave AstraZeneca “an unacceptable level of control over a vaccine developed with public funds”. “Relying on voluntary measures by pharmaceutical companies to ensure access is a mistake with fatal consequences,” he said.

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AstraZeneca has received large sums of public money to develop its vaccine and secure forward orders, including at least US $ 1 billion. Supply agreements to date indicate that the vaccine, which requires two doses, costs around $ 3-4 per dose, which is less than the prices disclosed or reported for other potential vaccines.

Ellen ‘t Hoen, director of Medicines Law & Policy, a nonprofit campaigning for better access to medicines, said more transparency was needed.

“Despite all the talk that the Covid-19 vaccine should be a ‘global public good’ by political leaders who spend billions on Covid-19 R&D, it appears that it is the pharmaceutical companies that determine, in agreements secrets, who will get access to the vaccine and when, ”she said.

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