AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine studies raise questions


AstraZeneca’s  coronavirus vaccine announcement is drawing scrutiny.

The New York Times (subscription) and  Wired later took note of questions regarding the AstraZeneca studies conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil.

Investors seemed to reflect the skepticism with AstraZeneca shares on Wednesday down $3 from the close on Friday.

One question mark was the difference between AstraZeneca’s trials and those Pfizer and Moderna. Pfizer and Moderna had earlier announced 90 percent or greater effectiveness for their vaccine candidates.

AstraZeneca’s release reported 90 percent effectiveness with a combination of a full dose and a second half-dose. However, two full doses led to 60 percent effectiveness. The reason for the difference has not been determined.

AstraZeneca defended its work, although the use of a dose and a half resulted from an error, the Times reported. The UK government authorized the dose and a half study to continue. The company told the Times. 

AstraZeneca also shared some information with industry analysts that was not released to the public. The action led to concerns over the public acceptance of vaccines once approvals are granted.

The questions cloud prospects of the vaccine getting emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Further studies will continue in the U.S. and other nations, and AstraZeneca will continue to seek emergency authorization here and overseas.

Studies of the AstraZeneca vaccine were paused for a time, reportedly after one of the participants developed an illness. The trial was allowed to resume.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine comes with a couple of advantages,  the ability to be stored at slightly above freezing as well as a lower price. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require freezers.

That advantage would make worldwide distribution easier.  The company has indicated it will produce the vaccine at cost during the pandemic and will not limit distribution to first-world nations.

AstraZeneca employs 1,500 in Delaware.

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