Astrazeneca sacrificed over £21billion of revenues by selling its Covid vaccine at no profit, it emerged last night.
The British company has pledged to produce 3billion doses of the life-saving jab it developed with Oxford University for an average price of just $5 (£3.60) globally – the minimum needed to recover costs.
Its decision to forego huge profits is an unprecedented move by a multinational business, prompting the World Health Organisation to hail the jab as a ‘vaccine for the world’.
Astrazeneca sacrificed over £21billion of revenues by selling its Covid vaccine at no profit, it emerged last night
But critics in the EU have tried to round on the company over supply chain problems and blame it for the bloc’s vaccine rollout. Some have even accused the firm of ‘dishonesty’ and of secretly hoarding jabs.
The attacks are said to have left bosses at Astra dismayed. More than one senior figure is said to have suggested that they wouldn’t make the same decision again.
If profit had been its main goal, Astra could have boosted its bottom line significantly.
The Mail understands that had the firm doubled the price per jab to £7.30, it could have made an extra £11billion in revenues. Tripling it would have netted over £21billion.
John Rountree, a pharmaceuticals expert at Novasecta, said Astrazeneca’s decision was ‘courageous’ but it had been ‘sucked into politics’.
He added: ‘It is not easy to produce vaccines and yet they have managed to do this very fast. Inevitably, it will not all go smoothly all the way but that is normal. And even now when they are getting some bad publicity, they are taking it in their stride and being very professional.’
Sir John Bell, the Oxford professor involved in bringing the vaccine to market, said Astra ‘never had credit’ for its generosity.
But critics in the EU have tried to round on the company over supply chain problems and blame it for the bloc’s vaccine rollout
‘There’s a point at which AstraZeneca could just say, “You’ve got to be joking, we’re going to stop now because we’re not getting any credit for what we’re doing”,’ he told the Daily Telegraph. ‘The share price has gone down, not up. We’re making more vaccines than everybody else. This is a safe and effective vaccine, but nobody seems to care.’
Rivals have netted huge profits during the pandemic. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is thought to have cost around £15 per dose and Moderna’s around £28.
Yet EU politicians have made baseless attacks against Astra’s vaccine, which has been key to the UK’s inoculation drive. French president Emmanuel Macron once claimed that it was ‘quasi-ineffective’ on the elderly.
Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts accused the firm of ‘dishonesty and ‘arrogance’.
Meanwhile in Italy, police were this week sent to raid a factory as part of an attempt to track exports.
And American regulators claimed it had used outdated efficacy data in its figures.
Yesterday a spokesman said: ‘From the outset AstraZeneca’s approach has been to treat the development of the vaccine as a response to a global public health emergency and we continue to operate in that same public spirit.
‘We are absolutely committed to make the vaccine available to as many countries as possible at no profit during the period of the pandemic to support broad and equitable access around the world.’
- Updated data from the US found the Astrazeneca jab was 76 per cent effective at preventing people falling ill, down from 79 per cent. In older people, effectiveness increased from 80 to 85 per cent.