Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca expects to increase global vaccine capacity to more than 200 million doses per month by April as the company works hard to improve productivity, it said during a media call on Thursday.
In the call, which followed its 2020 corporate results release, AstraZeneca said that along with its partners it currently produces more than 100 million doses per month.
Its supply chain partners are getting ready to supply more through the COVAX facility, the company added, with an estimated 336 million doses available to 145 countries in the first half of the year, almost two-thirds of which are going to low- and middle-income countries.
Responding to a question about the timeframe for the newly developed vaccines against new coronavirus variants, Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca's executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals research and development, reiterated that they expect these to be ready in time for next autumn or winter.
“In collaboration with the University of Oxford, AstraZeneca is focused on adapting C19VAZ to new disease strains if required and hopes to reduce the time needed to reach production at scale to between six to nine months, by utilising existing clinical data and optimising its established supply chain,” the company said in its earnings press release.
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said that the development of new vaccines was much faster because the approval will be based on immunogenicity data.
The World Health Organization on Wednesday recommended the use of the current Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in countries where variants of the coronavirus are circulating. Preliminary analysis showed a slightly reduced efficacy against the variant first spotted in the UK, and another early analysis showed “a marked reduction” in effectiveness against mild or moderate disease from the variant first spotted in South Africa, it said.
However, that study was small and WHO officials noted there’s indirect evidence the vaccine still protects against severe disease.