The Covid-19 cases around the world are increasing again, but the good thing is that there are several pharmaceutical companies close to getting approval for their Covid-19 vaccine candidates. Overall, three leading vaccine candidates have been proven effective against the virus including Pfizer Inc. (PFE), Moderna Inc. (MRNA), and AstraZeneca Plc (AZN). While both Pfizer and Moderna are expected to get emergency use approval for their vaccines in different countries around the world, AstraZeneca’s vaccine may face a hurdle in the process.
The main reason behind the expected delay of AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate is two different efficacy results reported by the company last week, which has created confusion among investors and drug regulators.
AstraZeneca , which developed the vaccine in collaboration with the University of Oxford, said it achieved 62 percent efficacy when two full doses were given with an interval of 28 days. Comparatively, the same vaccine candidate was 90 percent effective in preventing the Covid-19 symptoms when a half dose and a full dose were given to the participants with a 28-day gap. Overall, it announced an average efficacy of 70 percent. When asked about the reason behind two different doses, the company said the lower first dosage was given to some participants by mistake that later turned out to be more effective.
However, the company faced criticism after reporting two different efficacy percentages. Some even raised questions about the credibility of the results. In response, AstraZeneca said it may start another trial to recheck the efficacy of its vaccine when given in half and full-dose combination.
However, AstraZeneca’s stock price may get a hit if the results from the new trials fell significantly short of rival vaccine candidates such as Moderna and Pfizer, which have achieved about 95 percent efficacy in the late-stage trials.
Who is going to dominate the Covid-19 vaccine market?
AstraZeneca’s covid-19 vaccine candidate may lag behind rival vaccines, but few things may help the company in succeeding in the long term. When the pandemic started, the company vowed to sell its potential vaccine without a profit. For instance, it will offer the vaccine for $4 per dose to the U.S. government after getting approval. Comparatively, Pfizer has set a price of $20 per dose, while Moderna will sell each dose for $15, according to their supply deals with the U.S.
The affordability factor is already helping AstraZeneca in securing more supply deals. It was the first company to ink a deal with the European Commission in August for delivering 400 million doses at zero profit until the end of the pandemic. On the other hand, the European Commission negotiated with Pfizer and Moderna for months to finally reach a supply deal in November
There is still a probability that the governments may gradually turn to the vaccines with the best effectiveness, and AstraZeneca may lose some customers in the process. But at the same time, affordability is the key factor for many underdeveloped and developing countries. For instance, the Serum Institute of India has inked a license agreement with the company for producing one billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine for weak economies.
AstraZeneca hasn’t disclosed any plans about the pricing of the vaccine once the pandemic ends. However, the company may start generating strong profits if it sets the price anywhere near the price of rival vaccines. Moreover, if the existing customers are satisfied with the results of the AstraZeneca vaccine, it will greatly help the company in maintaining its status as a leading supplier.
Vaccine development capacity
AstraZeneca is planning to scale up its operations to produce three billion doses of its vaccine during 2021. On the other hand, Pfizer plans to develop 1.3 billion doses during the period, while Moderna’s is capable of producing anywhere between 500 million to 1 billion doses.
The demand for the Covid-19 vaccine is expected to stay high in the coming time. AstraZeneca could become the biggest supplier of the vaccine if the rivals failed to boost their production capacities.
AstraZeneca is expected to take over its rivals in the coronavirus vaccine market considering the aforesaid advantages it has over them. The company is planning to submit an emergency use approval request to different drug regulatory authorities around the world including FDA. However, we have to wait until next year to get a clear idea about the performance of each vaccine.