Drugmaker AstraZeneca’s shares have fallen after the announcement today that its coronavirus vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, had a lower efficacy rate than figures reported by rivals Pfizer and Moderna.
The company’s shares were down 3.81 per cent by Monday afternoon.
Results from AstraZeneca’s phase-3 trial showed the vaccine could protect 70.4 per cent of people from becoming ill, though this increased up to 90 per cent if a lower first dose is used in patients.
Both US drugmaker Pfizer and US biotech firm Moderna confirmed their vaccines were 95 per cent effective in the past week, setting the bar high for the British immunisation. Some analysts were left baffled by the findings.
Maxim Jacobs, of the investment research firm Edison Group, for instance, told reporters today: “It’s not normal for there to be lower efficacy for a higher dose, it can happen but it’s rare. There are some potential explanations, such as the vector immune response, but it’s hard to know without more data.”
But a major advantage of the AstraZeneca and Oxford jab is that it can be kept at fridge temperature, as opposed to the Pfizer jab which requires -70C storage and Moderna’s which needs -20C conditions.
To put those figures into perspective, Pfizer’s jab must be stored at a temperature colder than it usually is in Antarctica over winter, while Moderna’s must be stored in a freezer.
The Oxford Vaccine Group’s director, Professor Andrew Pollard, revealed in a statement this evening that this crucial development meant the jab could be distributed in less developed countries than the UK.
Appearing alongside UK chief medical officer Chris Whitty, and a virtual Boris Johnson, Prof Pollard said: “We have a vaccine that can be stored at fridge temperatures.
“This was very important to us in Oxford because we wanted to be able to make sure it can be distributed not just in a country like this, where we can manage any form of distribution, but around the world, because the virus actually isn’t just a problem here in the UK. It is for everyone.”
AstraZeneca, which is Britain’s biggest pharmaceutical firm, also confirmed it would price the vaccine “at cost”, which means it will sit at around £2 to £4 a dose. This is far below Pfizer’s £15 and Moderna’s £19 to £28 a dose.