Pascal Soriot is the visionary CEO of AstraZeneca
Pascal Soriot has had a difficult time since the pandemic began. AstraZeneca’s visionary CEO has helped save tens of thousands of lives in the UK and abroad with the rapid roll-out of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine.
Unlike more mercenary competitors at Pfizer and Moderna, the UK pharmaceutical company has been delivering inexpensively to the NHS and overseas customers.
Despite all of AZ’s best efforts to help humanity, Soriot was vilified in Europe and found his company on the wrong side of vaccine nationalism in the United States.
Despite the setbacks and legal challenges in the EU, the French CEO is unimpressed.
“We are in talks with the EU to ensure an agreement and want to move on,” he says. “Despite all this criticism, we are the second largest vaccine supplier in Europe.”
In the United States, Astra has never received emergency approvals from the three major American vaccine providers Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Soriot dryly states that the US “defended its banks very aggressively” a decade ago during the banking crisis. “America First,” former President Trump’s slogan, could explain the raids AZ faced when it received swift approval in Washington.
Soriot has now decided to forget about the raid and get full approval. AZ will provide US regulators with “tens of thousands of pages of data” from studies in the US, South Africa, Japan, India and elsewhere demonstrating the efficacy and safety of the OxfordAZ vaccine.
In an interview from the Continental Hub from AZ in Zurich, Soriot, 62, is relaxed in a sports jacket and open shirt. He prides himself on the fact that AZ, with a limited vaccine history, has managed to get doses of 1 billion from the start.
He says, “We went in with our eyes open and knew what we were doing. This enabled us to deliver so many cans to many countries. We believe we will receive more than 2 billion doses this year. ‘
He adds that everything AZ has done was for “humanitarian reasons” and despite the success it has not yet been decided whether he and his team want to do more in the vaccines business in the long term.
What is clear from the recently released financial results is the loss of revenue and profit that AstraZeneca and its Oxford partners have brought. Pfizer projected full year earnings of £ 21.4 billion for its vaccine and last month raised the price for countries that buy booster vaccines.
In contrast, AZ reported modest revenue of £ 643 million from vaccine sales in the second quarter of the year. Soriot has settled in Zurich for the time being because the heavily regulated Heathrow-USA air corridor makes traveling to the American east coast difficult.
Unlike more mercenary competitors at Pfizer and Moderna, UK pharma company AZ has been delivering inexpensively to the NHS and overseas customers
Earlier this year, the AZ chief came under fire for spending months at his family home in Sydney while controversy swirled over the effectiveness of the vaccine and supplies. The Astra boss is unrepentant.
‘I wanted to be there [in Australia] for Christmas. I haven’t seen my family in ten months and now I’m not sure when I’ll see them again. The pandemic is raging in Australia. I’m not sure when they’ll reopen the border. ‘
Now that the controversy has subsided, Soriot, a trained scientist, is happy to quote from vaccine effectiveness studies that undermine European and American skepticism. The enormous amount of data is very encouraging, he says: “It shows that the vaccine is safe and has great effectiveness.”
The most important information [from all the vaccines] it’s about the long-term effect on your heart
He points to a Spanish study just published in the Lancet, funded by the European Medicines Agency, which shows that Americans also have a rare risk of side effects with their vaccines and the results are very similar.
It’s very rare, but patients with the AZ vaccine should monitor symptoms and have platelets checked if they develop a headache, which could suggest a medical evaluation is needed.
The good news for those who received Astra vaccination, which is based on traditional vaccine science, is that it may provide better protection against infection in the long term than both Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations.
Studies suggest that Pfizer wears off slightly over six months, hence the need for a booster program.
Soriot hopes the AZ vaccination will offer longer-term protection. Studies with a similar vaccine that was used to fight the Zika virus show that what are known as T cells attack and “offer decades of protection”.
Soriot has certainly steered AZ’s vaccine program, with the broadcasts being distributed around the world