AstraZeneca’s chief executive defended the company against “armchair generals” and said its vaccine had a future.
Pascal Soriot revealed that the UK had priority access to the jab in a deal with the University of Oxford in return for an investment and that it was only slightly less effective against the Indian variant than the strain identified in Kent.
The 61-year-old French executive told the Financial Times that a new booster has performed well against other variants in animal studies and that the company is in negotiations with the UK and d ‘other governments on contracts for recalls.
Soriot said the company’s plan to provide the vaccine to a nonprofit in order to repair the industry’s image had been disrupted by “bad luck” and “people misunderstanding things.”
He told the FT: “People are just trying to do their best. They are just trying to produce a vaccine to save lives. It is that simple.
“And then, being criticized every day, sometimes fair criticism, sometimes by armchair generals who have opinions about everything, is really disheartening.
The chief executive admitted a “clean target” by failing to notify the Data Security Oversight Committee of the US trial of the final simulated data, leading to accusations he released outdated information.
He said: “It is usually not necessary but out of politeness and good practice they should have told them. People worked so hard, they were tired, they were rushing.
Denmark has stopped giving the Oxford / AstraZeneca jab amid concerns over rare cases of blood clots after several European countries had previously briefly suspended the vaccine.
But Soriot, the company’s CEO since 2012, insisted that evidence of efficacy collected in studies after the dosages were approved showed it had “the exact same result” as the Pfizer / BioNTech jab.
Another criticism has been the lack of delivery to the EU, with the European Commission announcing last month that it would take legal action against the pharmaceutical company.
Soriot suggested that the slower roll-out of mass vaccination in Europe was not the Anglo-Swedish company’s fault but due to less aggressive investments.
He said the United States had “a high vaccination rate, but they did not have our vaccine.”
“So if our vaccine is the problem in Europe, are you telling me how the United States achieved such a high vaccination rate?”
The managing director added that Europe “is part of the whole, it is not the whole world” and that many countries want its vaccine.