AstraZeneca says vaccines against new variants may take six months to produce

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AstraZeneca said in a a company document published Thursday that producing vaccines focused on combating new COVID-19 variants could take at least six months.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, which has worked with Oxford University to produce its vaccine, said in a 2020 review that it “hopes to reduce the time needed to reach production at scale to between six to nine months, by utilising existing clinical data and optimising its established supply chain.”

The AstraZeneca vaccine, now rolling out in the U.K. and European Union, was praised for its cheap production costs and its less-constraining storage requirements. But recent data has showed it offers “minimal protection” against a COVID-19 variant that was first discovered in South Africa. 

CEO Pascal Soriot acknowledged the vaccine’s faults during a call with reporters, according to Reuters.

“Is it perfect? No, it’s not perfect, but it’s great. Who else is making 100 million doses in February?” he asked.

“We’re going to save thousands of lives, and that’s why we come to work every day,” he added. 

South Africa ordered providers in the country to stop administering the AstraZeneca vaccine; the more contagious strain of the coronavirus has become dominant in South Africa. 

Still, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the vaccine for emergency use for adults, including in countries where variants are the most prominent. 

“Even if there is a reduction in the possibility of these vaccines having a full impact in its protection capacity especially against severe disease, there is no reason not to recommend its use even in countries that have the circulation of the variants,” Alejandro Cravioto, the chairman of WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunizations, said on Wednesday. 

AstraZeneca also reported on Thursday that it saw double-digit revenue growth last year despite the pandemic. 

That financial gain does not include any growth due to the vaccine, which will be reported separately. AstraZeneca has vowed to provide its vaccine on a nonprofit basis throughout the pandemic, The Associated Press noted.  

Tags AstraZeneca vaccine Coronavirus coronavirus vaccine COVID-19 COVID-19 vaccine COVID-19 variants Pandemic Vaccine
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