AstraZeneca to explore options for future of its Covid-19 vaccine

'Is the vaccine businesses a sustainable business for AstraZeneca for the next five or 10 years, that big strategic question is under discussion'
AstraZeneca to explore options for future of its Covid-19 vaccine

AstraZeneca has been touted as a major weapon against the pandemic because it is cheaper and easier to use than some rivals. File picture

AstraZeneca is exploring its options for the future of its Covid-19 vaccine business and expects greater clarity on the matter by the end of 2021, a senior executive has said. 

"We are exploring different options," Ruud Dobber, executive vice president and president of the BioPharmaceuticals Business Unit, said, referring to the vaccines business. 

"Before year-end, we will have more clarity... if you ask me, is the vaccine businesses a sustainable business for AstraZeneca for the next five or 10 years, that big strategic question is under discussion."

AstraZeneca also said it hoped to settle a legal dispute with the EU over Covid-19 vaccine deliveries in the coming weeks, Mr Dobber said, potentially ending a row that has dogged the drugmaker and Brussels this year.

"We're hopeful in the next few weeks we will have a settlement," he said, without giving further details.

Second-quarter sales tripled

Second-quarter sales of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine more than tripled to $894m from the previous three months, but the drugmaker once again delayed its US application for approval.

The vaccine has been touted as a major weapon against the pandemic because it is cheaper and easier to use than some rivals. 

AstraZeneca and its Indian manufacturing partner say they have supplied 1bn doses to 170 countries so far. 

But the shot has also faced setbacks, including disputes over data, production problems, and links to rare side-effects that have led some countries to stop or restrict its use. The US has been particularly critical of the vaccine.

US approval

AstraZeneca said it now expected to seek US approval for the vaccine in the second half of this year. Previously, it had planned an application during the first half. 

The company said the shot, developed by Oxford University, brought in $1.17bn (€990m) in sales in the first six months of year, putting it among its best selling products, behind first-placed lung cancer drug Tagrisso on $2.54bn. 

The vaccine sales were based on deliveries of about 319m doses, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said, giving an average price of about $3.70 per dose. Deliveries from its partner, India-based Serum Institute, were not included. 

AstraZeneca has said it will not make a profit from the shot during the pandemic, and costs related to the vaccine shaved a cent off second-quarter earnings per share. 

While AstraZeneca did not forecast vaccine sales for the year, rivals Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have guided to $33.5bn, $19.2bn, and $2.5bn for their Covid shots, respectively. 

• Reuters

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