Can AstraZeneca Heal Itself?
Bloomberg Businessweek|March 01, 2021
Shortages, unclear trial data, and questions about efficacy have slowed the rollout of the company’s vaccine in Europe
By Suzi Ring, James Paton, and Flavia Rotondi, with Naomi Kresge and Tim Loh

Tens of millions of people around the world are desperately trying to get their hands on a potentially life-saving coronavirus vaccine. But a group of irate private-sector doctors in Italy is appealing to the country’s health ministry to avoid having to take the Covid-19 shot it’s offered them: the AstraZeneca Plc inoculation, which they believe is less effective.

Their objection speaks to the growing backlash in Europe against the vaccine co-developed by Astra and the University of Oxford. Professionals working in Italy’s public-sector health system received vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.—both shown to be more than 90% effective—and the private-sector doctors are angry at being given what, in their view, is a second-class shot. “It’s not that we’re acting like spoiled children,” says Paolo Mezzana, a plastic surgeon who’s the spokesperson for a group of about 3,500 private specialists. “We’re not against AstraZeneca for the sake of it, but we know that with their vaccine, it takes longer to get a complete immunization. We are not class B doctors.”

Rejection of its vaccine in Europe is the latest in a string of problems for Astra. After a bitter public fight between the company and the European Union over supply shortages in January led regulators to tighten controls on exports outside Europe, the bloc now faces issues over consumer acceptance for the doses it does have. Following a study showing efficacy was considerably reduced against a variant first identified in South Africa, the rollout of Astra’s shot there was temporarily halted. A lack of data on its effectiveness in older adults and questions about optimal dosing intervals haven’t helped.

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