AstraZeneca CEO Goes “Off Message” on Covid Boosters

02.09.2022 - Days before the FDA approved the new bivalent Covid-19 vaccine boosters, Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, offered his own assessment of the need for such.

Speaking to London newspaper The Telegraph, Soriot suggested that booster shots for young and healthy people are not advisable and governments buying the doses “would not be a good use of taxpayer money.”

The British drugmaker currently does not have a Covid vaccine booster or a first-generation shot in widespread use. The US never approved its Vaxzevria, while most European countries depleted their supplies and did not re-order amid slackening demand generally, reports of side effects and a growing preference for mRNA vaccines.

In contrast to what seems to be a consensus that the degree of vaccine protection wanes with the arrival of new variants, Soriot told the paper that research shows that vaccines give healthy people protection against severe disease for a long time, meaning most will not need a booster to avoid severe complications from the coronavirus.

Despite Soriot’s comments, the scientific consensus remains that booster shots are safe and effective, regardless of age or comorbidities, commentators said.

In the coming months, the UK will provide boosters to people over age 50, frontline workers and those with underlying conditions who are at high risk of developing severe symptoms. For its autumn campaign, the country is rolling out only Pfizer and Moderna shots.

In 2021, AstraZeneca and Pfizer, figures show, delivered similar levels of vaccines. For Pfizer, Covid vaccines generated $37 billion in revenue at a profit of $22 billion, according to the Telegraph. AstraZeneca, which agreed to supply the vaccines unilaterally at cost during the pandemic, generated $3.9 billion in revenues from its vaccines and made a profit of $115 million.

AstraZeneca meanwhile is shifting its focus to its Covid-19 antibody treatment, Evusheld, and has predicted that demand will rise amid a decline in vaccine sales. In the US, the FDA approved Evusheld in December 2021 for immunocompromised patients.

The British drugmaker has received government contracts for Evusheld in the US, the EU, Canada, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Australia and China. The UK has said, however, that it will not purchase the antibody combo, citing “insufficient data” on the duration of protection it provides against omicron and its sub-variants.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist