COVID-19

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may pose fewer distribution challenges

David Brancaccio, Victoria Craig, and Alex Schroeder Nov 23, 2020
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An illustration picture shows vials with COVID-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on Nov. 17, 2020. Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may pose fewer distribution challenges

David Brancaccio, Victoria Craig, and Alex Schroeder Nov 23, 2020
Heard on:
An illustration picture shows vials with COVID-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on Nov. 17, 2020. Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images
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First, it was Pfizer-BioNTech, then Moderna. Now, Monday morning, British drugmaker AstraZeneca and its partner Oxford University are the latest vaccine makers to say large-scale clinical trials showed this third vaccine seems to work well in humans. It’s up to 90% effective if less is given, 62% effective if more vaccine is given — researchers are trying to figure out why.

The BBC’s Victoria Craig has the latest on this. She spoke with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio, and the following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

David Brancaccio: AstraZeneca’s candidate is cheaper and easier to store and transport. Victoria, this is an advantage when it comes to getting a vaccine to developing countries, particularly?

Victoria Craig: Yes, the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine can be stored at regular refrigerator temperature. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines need to be stored at much colder temperatures, which has posed a challenge particularly in developing countries that don’t have the infrastructure — or the funds — necessary to keep the doses ultra cold.
And price is also a plus for getting widespread distribution: The Oxford vaccine will cost about $4. Pfizer’s is around $20 and Moderna’s is $34.

Brancaccio: So, we have results of several clinical trials. What happens now?

Craig: The vaccines will need to get their regulatory stamps of approval before they can be distributed. Then, each country’s health departments will need to decide distribution priority. Front-line workers and vulnerable populations are, in many cases, will be first.

AstraZeneca’s biopharma chief, Sir Mene Pangalos, explained the company is working with manufacturing partners all over the world, including India’s Serum Institute.

Mene Pangalos: It’s a relatively easy vaccine to distribute around the world. Manufacturing has already begun. We have the capacity to distribute up to 3 billion doses next year.

Brancaccio: How soon could the rollout happen?

Craig: For this AstraZeneca vaccine, Britain’s health secretary says as soon as next month, with a big U.K. push in January.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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