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AstraZeneca hopes for adapted vaccine rollouts six months after new variants found

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2-min read
A dose of AstraZeneca vaccine is prepared at A COVID-19 vaccination centre in the Odeon Luxe Cinema in Maidstone. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters
A dose of AstraZeneca vaccine is prepared at A COVID-19 vaccination centre in the Odeon Luxe Cinema in Maidstone. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters

AstraZeneca (AZN.L) hopes to be able to rollout adapted vaccines “six to nine months” after the discovery of new coronavirus variants.

The pharmaceutical company said it was focused on “optimising” its established supply chain and making the most of existing clinical data to speed up turnaround times adapting its C19VAZ jab.

It came as the company reported revenues jumping 9% in its full-year results, reaching $26.6bn (£19.2bn). Revenues are expected to grow by a “low-teens percentage” in its 2021 financial year, though the forecast does not include its vaccine sales, which will be reported separately from the next quarter.

Pre-tax profits more than doubled, jumping 153% to reach $3.9bn (£2.8bn). But the company has vowed to deliver its vaccine, co-invented by the University of Oxford and its spin-out company Vaccitech, “at no profit for the duration of the pandemic.

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The company said data “continued to accrue” from clinical trials on the efficacy of its vaccine, the effects of different gaps between doses, the length of protection and the impact of new variants. Any findings will be “published in due course.”

AstraZeneca’s results come a day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended the use of its vaccine in all adults. Scientists at the body said it could be given “without an upper age limit,” despite several countries deciding against its use for older people, citing a lack of evidence on effectiveness.

“We feel that the response of this group cannot be any different to groups that are of a younger age,” said Dr Alejandro Cravioto, chair of a WHO advisory group on immunisation.

The WHO also recommended rollout even where variants are present in a country, as well as its use for pregnant women where it outweighs potential risks.

It comes after an Oxford University and University of Witwatersrand study found AstraZeneca’s vaccine struggled to protect against mild to moderate illness among the young caused by the South African variant.

"The performance last year marked a significant step forward for AstraZeneca,” said CEO Pascal Soriot.“Despite the significant impact from the pandemic, we delivered double-digit revenue growth to leverage improved profitability and cash generation.”

The company said the pandemic had reduced sales of some of its other medicines, as a result of lower hospital admissions for heart attacks and levels of some elective surgery procedures.

Shares in AstraZeneca in London gained 1.4% on the announcement.

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