“What we have with AstraZeneca is a company that is not straightforward, that cannot be relied upon,” Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian member of the European Parliament, said in a radio interview with the BBC on Wednesday.
“They’ve made one mistake after the other,” said Jeffrey Lazarus, head of the health systems research group at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health.
Leap of faith
AstraZeneca entered the Covid-19 crisis with little vaccine experience. In recent years, it generated a large portion of its revenue by producing popular cancer drugs, such as Tagrisso, which is used to treat lung cancer.
But when the pandemic hit, the company decided to enter the race to develop a game-changing shot.
“I don’t think they ever had any intention to be a vaccine company,” said Andrew Berens, a pharmaceuticals analyst at SVB Leerink. “I think that the reason they embarked on this — and they’ve been pretty apparent about it — is they wanted to help humanity and fight the scourge of Covid.”
“They came into an area they’re not known for and they did really well,” Lazarus said.
Misstep after misstep
Almost immediately, however, problems started cropping up. Before AstraZeneca’s shot received emergency use approval, the company faced questions about data from large-scale trials presented in November.
Volunteers received different doses due to a manufacturing error, creating confusion about its actual effectiveness. AstraZeneca did not mention that a mistake caused the dosing discrepancy in its initial announcement, generating concerns about a lack of transparency.
“I hate to criticize fellow academics, or anyone for that matter, but releasing information like this is like asking us to try and read the tea leaves,” Dr. Saad Omer, a vaccine specialist at the Yale School of Medicine, said at the time.
Lazarus called such issues “easily avoidable,”…