AstraZeneca said in a company document released Thursday that it could take six months or longer to develop effective vaccines against some of the new coronavirus variants.
In a 2020 company review, the drug maker said that it “hopes to reduce the time needed to reach production at scale to between six and nine months, by utilizing existing clinical data and optimizing its established supply chain.”
Though AstraZeneca’s first vaccine has shown to be effective against the original novel coronavirus strain and is being distributed throughout the United Kingdom and European Union, recent studies have shown that it is far less effective against a new South African strain that is spreading around the world.
Following the new data, South Africa halted the distribution of AstraZeneca’s vaccine within the country, where its native, more contagious strain has become dominant. (RELATED: AstraZeneca Begins Developing Vaccines For Coronavirus Variants)
Despite the AstraZeneca vaccine’s subpar efficacy in combating the new strain, it is cheap to produce and relatively easy to distribute since it can be stored in refrigerators instead of specialized freezers.
The World Health Organization on Wednesday also recommended AstraZeneca’s vaccine for emergency use even in countries where several coronavirus variants are prevalent.
“Even if there is a reduction in the possibility of these vaccines having a full impact in its protection capacity especially against severe disease, there is no reason not to recommend its use even in countries that have the circulation of the variants,” said Alejandro Cravioto, the chairman of the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunizations. (RELATED: AstraZeneca Offers 100% Protection Against Coronavirus Hospitalizations, Company Says)
The pharmaceutical company also said in its review that it saw double-digit revenue growth last year, though the profits excluded any growth attributed to the vaccine.
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told BBC Radio after the vaccine’s approval in the U.K. that the vaccine would be administered free of charge.
“It has been shown to be effective, well-tolerated, simple to administer and is supplied by AstraZeneca at no profit,” he said.
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