Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which said it would not take a profit from its COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic, has now unveiled plans to start selling the shots at “modest profitability.”
In its latest financial results published on Friday, AstraZeneca said it is now “expecting to progressively transition the vaccine to modest profitability as new orders are received.”
The company said its vaccine sales in the fourth quarter of 2021 will be a blend of the original not-for-profit pandemic agreements and a number of new, for-profit orders.
It said that the “limited profit” will offset costs related to its antibody cocktail developed to prevent and treat COVID-19, a disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as novel coronavirus.
Chief Executive Pascal Sorio told journalists on Friday that the virus was becoming endemic, a term for a background level of infections that is part of everyday life.
“We started this project to help,” Sorio said. “But we also said that at some stage in the future, we will transition to commercial orders.”
“It will never be high priced, because we want the vaccine to remain affordable to everybody around the world,” he added.
The company said that low-income nations would continue to receive the vaccine on a no-profit basis.
AstraZeneca and its Indian manufacturing partner, Serum Institute, have supplied more than 1.5 billion vaccine doses as of the end of September.
The company unveiled plans this week to set up a separate unit to focus on vaccines and antibody treatments for COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.
AstraZeneca revealed that revenues jumped by 50 percent to $9.87 billion in the latest quarter, with revenues for the year to date increasing by 32 percent.
The company said that product sales have risen by a third, with the trend set to continue as it announced eight positive phase three trials, including treatments for liver and prostate cancer.
Sorio said the company has “a robust platform for long-term sustainable growth” thanks to its “broad portfolio of medicines and diversified geographic exposure.”
“AstraZeneca’s scientific leadership continues to provide strong revenue growth and exceptional pipeline delivery, with eight positive late-stage readouts across seven medicines since June, including our long-acting antibody combination showing promise in both prevention and treatment of COVID-19,” he said.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has faced challenges around efficacy data, supplies, and links to potentially deadly blood clots.
More than a dozen countries paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this year as a precaution while investigators looked into reported cases of blood clots among vaccinated people.
Reuters and PA contributed to this report.