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AstraZeneca on Thursday posted earnings that more than doubled in 2020 with rising sales excluding the vaccine against the coronavirus pandemic, and is optimistic for 2021 in particular thanks to the ongoing merger with Alexion.
The COVID-19 vaccine has received initial laboratory praise from the international community, which relies on vaccines to try to turn the page on the epidemic, but the delay in delivery in Europe and doubts about its effectiveness for those over 65 have sparked controversy.
In a strong defense of his company, Managing Director Pascal Seriot admitted during a virtual press conference: “Was everything okay? No,” but stressed that his group now has a “vaccine that provides 100% protection against the most severe forms of disease” caused by the virus. It expects to produce 100 million doses in February.
He stressed that “we have a significant impact” in the global battle against the epidemic, noting that the group was committed to selling the vaccine against COVID-19 at cost price.
“It is focusing on adapting the COVID-19 vaccine to new strains and hopes to reduce the time to reach mass production to between 6 and 9 months,” AstraZeneca says, in its Thursday statement.
The group claims that the current version of its vaccine “remains effective” against the English variant, but notes that a study from Oxford University shows “limited efficacy against mild forms of the disease caused by the South African variant.”
And this, without it being possible to comment on efficacy against the most severe forms, because the patients studied were young and in good health.
New vaccine in the fall
At the hypothetical press conference, the group executives reiterated that vaccines against the new variants should be available for injection by this fall.
The head of the group indicated that the race to obtain vaccines against the Coronavirus will gradually approach “what happens to influenza, with the vaccine being modified as it is.”
He also noted that the rapid vaccination campaign in Israel was bearing fruit with “an encouraging drop in hospitalizations” and “we can hope to see the same thing in the UK by March”, as vaccination is also progressing faster and faster than it is in the European Union.
In addition, the World Health Organization announced on Wednesday that the AstraZeneca vaccine can be given to people over the age of 65 and in countries where the variants are common, despite the suspicions of many European countries including France and Germany.
For its part, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced that it had asked all vaccine developers to evaluate whether their product was effective against new mutations in the Corona virus.
Despite assurances from the World Health Organization, South Africa also said it is ready to sell or replace 1 million doses of AstraZeneca, disposed of in favor of Johnson & Johnson.
To be reassuring, AstraZeneca also said on Wednesday to join forces with Germany’s IDT Biologika in order to be able to produce more vaccines for Europe from the second quarter.
On the results side, the group’s net profit share for 2020 was $ 3.2 billion, while sales also increased dramatically by 9% to $ 26.6 billion over one year, driven by new drugs and strong demand for products against disruptions caused by the virus, for example. Against asthma.
This is despite lower revenues over other products whose distribution to patients has slowed due to the pandemic, especially in oncology, due to treatments being postponed to prioritize those that are fighting the virus.
These numbers do not take into account sales of the vaccine against the Coronavirus.
AstraZeneca expects sales to rise 1-4% and profit to accelerate next year with the exception of vaccine sales against the virus, for which it will publish separate results from the next quarter.
AstraZeneca also reports that it has started Phase 3 trials of an antibody-based drug against COVID-19.
The stock was up 1.56% at 11 am GMT (6 am in Quebec) in a slightly bullish London market.