Let the AZ Vaccine Go!

Finally the NYTimes has picked up on a story I have been shouting from the rooftops for months.

Tens of millions of doses of the coronavirus vaccine made by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca are sitting idly in American manufacturing facilities, awaiting results from its U.S. clinical trial while countries that have authorized its use beg for access.

…About 30 million doses are currently bottled at AstraZeneca’s facility in West Chester, Ohio, which handles “fill-finish,” the final phase of the manufacturing process during which the vaccine is placed in vials, one official with knowledge of the stockpile said.

Emergent BioSolutions, a company in Maryland that AstraZeneca has contracted to manufacture its vaccine in the United States, has also produced enough vaccine in Baltimore for tens of millions more doses once it is filled into vials and packaged, the official said.

…But although AstraZeneca’s vaccine is already authorized in more than 70 countries, according to a company spokesman, its U.S. clinical trial has not yet reported results, and the company has not applied to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. AstraZeneca has asked the Biden administration to let it loan American doses to the European Union, where it has fallen short of its original supply commitments and where the vaccination campaign has stumbled badly.

The administration, for now, has denied the request, one official said.

Some federal officials have pushed the White House to make a decision in the next few weeks. Officials have discussed sending doses to Brazil, which has been hard hit by a worsening coronavirus crisis, or the European Union or Britain.

The AZ vaccine could have saved thousands of lives in the US, if it had been approved earlier. But it’s not going to be approved in the US for months at best and with the ramp up in production of Pfizer, Moderna, J&J and now Novavax it’s no longer needed in the US. Let it go! Send it to Canada or Mexico or Brazil or COVAX.

In our Science Paper we estimate that another 1 billion courses of vaccine capacity are worth $1 trillion of additional global benefits. AZ has on the order of 50 million doses nearly ready to go and can produce in the US around 25 million doses a month so over a year that production is worth over $100 billion to the world economy, far higher than the modest cost of production! Instead of idling this capacity we should expand it even further as part of a plan to vaccinate the world.

It’s a Biden Plan to vaccinate the world or a Xi Jinping Plan and I’d rather it be a Biden Plan.


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