AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is not perfect, but it will have a huge impact on the pandemic, the managing director predicted on Thursday as the drug maker promised to double supply to more than 200 million doses per month by April.
Developed with Oxford University, the two-dose shot has been hailed as the “vaccine for the world” because it is cheaper and easier to distribute than some competitors.
However, its rapid approval in Europe and elsewhere has been marred by doubts about the most effective dosage and the most effective interval between doses.
Data from the weekend also showed it was less effective against a rapidly spreading South African variant of the virus, and the company became embroiled in a series with the European Union over delivery delays.
“Is it perfect? No, it’s not perfect, but it’s great. Who is making 100 million cans in February?” CEO Pascal Soriot said on a conference call about the vaccine.
“We’re going to save thousands of lives and that’s why we come to work every day.”
AstraZeneca said it was expecting much-anticipated data from the US trial of the vaccine before the end of March and was confident that the shot would offer relatively good protection against serious illness and death for the South African variant. The disappointing results were against milder cases.
After becoming the UK’s most valuable company last summer, it has now slipped to sixth place, something some analysts attribute to doubts about the vaccine.
“In a year or two we will look back and everyone will see that we made a big impression,” said Soriot.
AstraZeneca’s shares rose more than 2% in morning trading after the company forecast a pickup in earnings growth this year due to strong demand for cancer and other new therapies.
It has pledged not to make any money from its COVID-19 vaccine during the pandemic.
The company expected sales to grow by a low teenage percentage in 2021 and core earnings of $ 4.75 to $ 5.00 per share as it beat expectations for fourth quarter revenue.
Earnings guidance is 18-24% growth from 15% in 2020, but was slightly below analysts’ expectations of $ 5.10 per share as the company saw more spending this year.
The COVID-19 vaccine is not included in the guidance and the company announced that its sales will be segregated from the first quarter of 2021.
While the public interest has focused on the vaccine, AstraZeneca’s core business in diabetes, heart, kidney and cancer drugs has grown steadily, helping the company reverse the years of decline.
For the third consecutive year, revenue growth in the three months ended December was rounded off by a company-built consensus, while core earnings of $ 1.07 per share were in line with expectations.
Cancer drug sales, AstraZeneca’s largest field, rose 28% for the quarter, led by top-selling lung cancer drug Tagrisso.
“The company is arguably the flagship for large pharma turnarounds,” said Sebastian Skeet, senior analyst at Third Bridge.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)