Leaked document: AstraZeneca can end no-profit pledge soon

The Financial Times is reporting that vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca could legally declare the pandemic over by July 2021, ending its no-profit pledge of providing countries with cost-price Covid-19 inoculations.

A memorandum of understanding between AstraZeneca and a Brazilian manufacturer defines the “Pandemic Period” as ending on July 1 2021, according to the FT article.

“The period could be extended but only if ‘AstraZeneca acting in good faith considers that the SARS-COV-2 pandemic is not over’, it says.”

AstraZeneca received hundreds of millions of dollars from countries around the world in order to fast-track development and production of their Covid-19 vaccine, agreeing in return to offer the injection at cost price for the duration of the pandemic.

Although the company would not answer questions about the memorandum of understanding with Brazilian manufacturer Fiocruz, they did say their work was not being treated as a “commercial opportunity”.

“From the outset, AstraZeneca’s approach has been to treat the development of the vaccine as a response to a global public health emergency, not a commercial opportunity,” the company said in a statement.

“We continue to operate in that public spirit and we will seek expert guidance, including from global organisations, as to when we can say that the pandemic is behind us.”

The company’s CEO Pascal Soriot had previously stated that a range of factors would be taken into account when determining an end to the pandemic, but would he not be drawn on what price a vaccine dose might cost at that point.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently thought to cost $3 to $4 per dose.

Oxford University, who partnered with AstraZeneca in developing the vaccine, said although the terms of its agreement were “confidential”, it would uphold its commitment “to fair and equitable access to the vaccine for the duration of the pandemic should it prove to be effective in our global phase 3 clinical trials.”

A Médecins Sans Frontières policy advisor told the Financial Times that the memorandum gave the company “an unacceptable level of control over a vaccine developed through public funds” however.

“Relying on voluntary measures by pharmaceutical corporations to ensure access is a mistake with fatal consequences,” he said.

The non-profit Medicines Law & Policy group also told the newspaper that more transparency was needed when countries make agreements with vaccine producers.

“Despite all the talk about the Covid-19 vaccine needing to be a ‘global public good’ by political leaders who spend billions on Covid-19 R&D, it seems that it is the drug companies that determine, in secret deals, who will get access to the vaccine and when,” director Ellen ‘t Hoen said.

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