Can AstraZeneca win in the U.S. COVID vaccine market after its efficacy results fiasco?

AstraZeneca (NASDAQ: AZN) last week announced its first interim efficacy results for its COVID-19 vaccine. But the National Institutes of Health (NIH) quickly released a statement that appeared to slap the drugmaker for not including more up-to-date results. In this Motley Fool Live video registered on March 24, 2021Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss whether AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine may still be a winner in the U.S. market after its public relations fiasco. (Note: AstraZeneca subsequently announced updated efficiency results on March 25 after recording this video.)

Keith Speights: I think the best way to describe what’s going on with AstraZeneca right now is a PR fiasco. They came out with results that look great and were then almost immediately called to the mat by the NIH. Brian, after all of this, do you think AstraZeneca could still be a big winner in the US COVID vaccine market?

Brian Orelli: They were 100% effective in preventing serious illness and hospitalization. So if it’s close to that, maybe it won’t be 100% because there are more events, then maybe you have one or two in the group that received the vaccine, and so now it’s not 100%.

But if it’s close to that and they keep their numbers close to 70%, and they insinuated in the press release that said, “We’re going to get the rest of the data out as quickly as possible,” than the rest The data was pretty close to what they had published for the interim. I think it’s probably that the efficiency is OK.

It can be stored in the refrigerator. So overall use, I think it’s probably useful compared to Modern and Pfizer, both of which should be kept in freezers. I think they have an advantage there.

The big question for long term use is going to be the variants. This is an adenovirus vaccine, so boosters may not be as effective. There is a hypothesis that the immune system might respond to the adenovirus before it can inject cells to deliver the DNA needed to then express the coronavirus proteins, which we want the immune system to actually respond to.

Thus, adenovirus-based vaccines such as Johnson & johnson (NYSE: JNJ) and AstraZeneca are likely to become less useful. The Russian vaccine, I think, gets around this by using two different adenoviruses. The first dose is different from the second dose, it comes from another adenovirus, and they were able to achieve really high efficiency there.

Maybe the way AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson get around it is to develop a different adenovirus that would provide the new variant. But then again, you’ll run out of adenovirus eventually, I think. I don’t know how many there are, but there can’t be endless supply, so maybe they bring us back a decade, maybe that’s enough to deal with the coronavirus.

Speights: Law. I think I read that even with the final data included the efficiency would probably be between 69% and I think 74%. It’s still good enough to earn emergency use authorization. It’s also important to remember that AstraZeneca has a pretty big supply contract with the US government, I think it’s for 300 million doses.

Orelli: Yes. They’re going to sell them anyway.

Speights: Yes. They’re going to sell them anyway.

Orelli: Yes. Most of them are probably going to end up in other countries because of this, by the time AstraZeneca gets its emergency use authorization in the US, we will have enough mRNA vaccines that we will have. probably won’t need. AstraZeneca vaccine.

Speights: Yes. We are already seeing some countries distributing some of their doses of AstraZeneca to other countries. Yeah, I think you’re right, I think we’ll see more of that.

Sure, AstraZeneca said they were selling their vaccine at cost, which you thought would bolster the goodwill of the company, but they’ve sort of missed it now, at least twice. I think the goodwill they might have received by selling the vaccine at cost might be outweighed by some of their PR mistakes.

Orelli: Yes. They also had the problem with the side effects. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but in the provisional data release Monday, they said the Data Watch Committee specifically looked for thrombosis issues and they haven’t seen any. Again, this appears to be just a red herring for the vaccine. It doesn’t appear to be a problem.

This article represents the opinion of the author, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a premium Motley Fool consulting service. We are motley! Challenging an investment thesis – even one of our own – helps us all to think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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