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Does AstraZeneca's COVID Vaccine Have a Future?

By Keith Speights and Brian Orelli, PhD - Updated Jun 25, 2021 at 2:50PM

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Yes, but it could be a bumpy one.

Once upon a time, AstraZeneca (AZN 3.08%) was widely viewed as the leader in the COVID-19 vaccine race. Any hopes of a pharmaceutical fairy tale have dwindled, though, after the big drugmaker stumbled in multiple ways with the rollout of its vaccine. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on May 26, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss whether or not AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine even has a viable future.

Keith Speights: I saw a report recently of an interview with AstraZeneca's CEO Pascal, I think you pronounce his name Soriot. Does that sound right?

Brian Orelli: I don't know, it's French. [laughs] 

Speights: It's French. I don't know. I don't speak French. Maybe Soriot, S-O-R-I-O-T. If anyone speaks French and knows how to pronounce it, you can correct us here.

The AstraZeneca CEO had an interview with The Financial Times and he stated that his company's COVID-19 vaccine, and I'm going to put air quotes here, "Has a future." That strikes me as just a wee bit defensive, Brian, but is he right, does AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine have a future?

Orelli: I think it depends whether we're talking about the short term or the long term. In the short term, I'm sure it has contracts that will be filled and governments will buy the vaccine. They'll create revenue that will help pay for the costs of the clinical trials.

In the long term, I think the jury is still out. It's got side effect issues. Then I still contend that boosters for AstraZeneca's vaccine are going to be an issue because it's delivered with a virus. If you're delivering something with a virus, you're going to create antibodies for that virus, as well as once the virus injects it with DNA into the cell and it makes the coronavirus spreads, you can develop antibodies to that as well.

But eventually, that means that the vaccine boosters of the vaccine are going to weigh in the effectiveness of them because your body is developing the antibodies to the delivery mechanism. Therefore it won't have time to inject into the cells before your own antibodies take care of the delivery mechanism.

The other thing that I thought was interesting in the article that you cited was that they owned up to the U.S. press release issue, where they came out with data and then the U.S. government said, wait, we know more because the data was out of date at that point. Then they rushed and got the extra data. I think he called it an "own goal," sort of a soccer reference of basically kicking the ball into their own goal. It didn't really need to happen.

Speights: Of course, that's not their only stumble. They're in litigation with the European Union over alleged failure to meet supply commitments. AstraZeneca has had its fair share of troubles with the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine.

Brian Orelli, PhD has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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