AstraZeneca, the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate, has said that its coronavirus shots could be ready for large-scale vaccinations as early as this year, as it expects data from late-stage trials of the data to be also out this year.
The disclosure was made by the Chief Executive Officer of AstraZeneca Plc, Pascal Soriot, during a television interview with Bloomberg, where he dismissed reports of delays and production snags.
Sorot said the U.K. drugmaker is poised to unveil vaccine test results by year-end even after trials were slightly delayed over the summer as infection rates slowed in the northern hemisphere.
A recent resurgence has allowed scientists to gather the clinical data they need.
AstraZeneca, in collaboration with the University of Oxford, are keeping the vaccine in a frozen bulk state to preserve its shelf life while they await final test results.
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Soriot in the interview said, “At the end of the day, we don’t yet know if the vaccine works,” adding that many questions remain, such as whether it will show results for everyone and for how long.
He said, “We would hope that large-scale vaccinations would be possible starting in January next year – possibly even December.”
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Soriot’s remarks comes a day after Kate Bingham, Chair of the U.K. Vaccine Taskforce, said only 4 million doses of the shot would be available by the end of the year – far fewer than the 30 million that were due to be ready by September.
AstraZeneca said it’s confident it can begin supplying hundreds of millions of doses on a “rolling basis” once a shot is cleared.
It can be recalled that AstraZeneca has been at the forefront of efforts to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus pandemic, and its experimental shot could be one of the first to be approved globally, if successful.
Other drugmakers like Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. are all seeking to deliver crucial test results on a vaccine in the coming weeks, with emergency clearance possible before the end of the year.
Astra has said it will sell the vaccine during the pandemic at a price tag of between $4 to $5, depending on local manufacturing charges.
The company said recently it would add as much as 20% to cover manufacturing costs and avoid any material impact on its finances.
Soriot also said Astra is incurring a bill in excess of $1 billion globally for expenses including clinical development.
What you should know
Nairametrics had reported that the vaccine candidate which is developed by AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford, has produced a robust immune response in older adults and the elderly – those at highest risk of severe illness.
Astra and Oxford had also enrolled about 23,000 volunteers in vaccine trials globally, with plans to reach 50,000 once the U.S. arm has completed recruitment.
A U.K. government spokesperson said Thursday that “a vaccine will only be deployed once proven to be safe and effective,” and that the National Health Service was ready to start the vaccination program.