Why we are targeting AstraZeneca

Why we are targeting AstraZeneca


By: Heidi Chow
Date: 26 April 2021
Campaigns: Pharma

For the past year, we have been calling on AstraZeneca and other vaccine makers to drop their patents and share the vaccine technology and know-how with the world. But, a question we are often asked is: Why are you targeting AstraZeneca? When compared to companies like Pfizer that is charging up to $39 a dose and potentially $150-175 per dose after the pandemic and selling 85% of its supplies to rich countries, isn’t AstraZeneca one of the good ones? After all, 67% of its supplies are going to the global south and it has pledged to sell its doses at non-profit pricing during the pandemic.

Sadly, we’ve discovered that AstraZeneca isn’t a model of a well-behaved company in the company of bad apples. Even if AstraZeneca made better choices than other companies, the problems with the big pharma model will not and cannot be solved by corporate goodwill. Big business simply shouldn’t be in charge of deciding who gets vaccinated and who doesn’t.

Here are our five reasons why we are targeting AstraZeneca to drop its patents and share its vaccine blueprints:

1. This vaccine is 97% funded by the public

Through both government funding and charitable trusts. So the vaccine is already a People’s Vaccine and should be a global public good. This publicly funded scientific discovery should be shared with the world to enable as many manufacturers as possible to make it, and to help flood the world with vast quantities of safe and effective vaccines and help end this pandemic sooner. In fact, Oxford University’s stated policy on its health innovations is open licensing i.e. allowing any manufacturer to make it. But because of the intervention of Bill Gates, this publicly funded vaccine is now a privatised asset with all the control over price, supply and distribution ceded to AstraZeneca – giving it the power to decide who lives and who dies.

2. Let’s talk about that price pledge

The world welcomed AstraZeneca’s promise to charge a price for its vaccine that meant it would make no profit during the pandemic but recent reporting shows that South Africa is paying twice the EU price. More recently that as India struggles to even breathe, doses are being charged in private hospitals by almost four times the EU price. AstraZeneca has outsourced some of its production to the Serum Institute of India who has been able to charge more than cost-price to low and middle income countries, making its price promise, worthless.

3. When will their so-called non-profit pandemic price promise end?

And just to dig a bit further into the price pledge, it was leaked that non-profit pricing for the pandemic period will end when AstraZeneca decides it is the end of the pandemic – not when the World Health Organisation does. In fact, AstraZeneca could declare the ‘end’ of the pandemic as early as 1 July 2021. Whenever its price promise expires, because it has exclusive control over the vaccine, the company is set to profit from this vaccine over the long-term especially as many health experts are predicting this virus will become endemic in our societies.

4. AstraZeneca’s deal gives the UK priority over the global south

As the UK is set to receive 10 million doses from the Serum Institute – the Indian manufacturer that is producing  AstraZeneca doses for the global south. The UK has hoarded enough doses to vaccinate its population almost three times over and yet it has been reported that the contract between AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute allows for the UK to take priority – even with doses that are intended for countries with little or no doses so far.

5. Though we are targeting AstraZeneca specifically as UK campaigners, we are calling on all pharmaceutical corporations to do the same thing

To drop their patents and share their know-how. As corporations hold their annual shareholder meetings, we are working with the global People’s Vaccine Alliance to put pressure on all companies. The pharmaceutical industry is ramping up their lobbying efforts and we need to build our power and demand that they stop monopolising vaccines for profiteering and put an end to this global scandal.

Take action online

Photo: Jess Hurd/Global Justice Now