In an upbeat earnings report today (April 30), Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca reported $275 million in revenue from its Covid-19 vaccine in the first three months of the year.
The vaccine, known as Vaxzevria, is one of four authorized for use against Covid-19 in the EU. It’s also been one of the more controversial ones: Many countries paused their rollout of the jab when it emerged that it can, in some rare cases, cause blood clots. AstraZeneca has also become embroiled in a public showdown with the EU over delayed supplies; the bloc is suing the company for alleged breach of contract. Meanwhile, the US has not approved the shot and plans to send most of its supply overseas.
Excluding the Covid-19 vaccine, AstraZeneca reported revenue of $7.3 billion. That’s 15% higher than the same time last year, or 11% at constant exchange rates, and beats analysts’ expectations. Core earnings increased 55% to $1.63 per share, and the company expects that in 2021, they will reach $4.75 to $5 a share. Executives attributed the growth to higher-than-expected sales of new medicines, especially cancer and cardiovascular drugs.
A pledge not to profit
Vaxzevria is the result of a non-profit partnership with Oxford University’s Jenner Institute. AstraZeneca pledged not to profit from the vaccine during the pandemic and is selling it for a far lower price than its competitors (around $4 per dose vs. $25 to $37 for Moderna, for example).
But nothing is stopping AstraZeneca from making its own call on when the pandemic is over, meaning that it could then sell its vaccine for a profit. This could be as early as this summer, based on the language contained in an agreement between AstraZeneca and a Brazilian manufacturer seen by the Financial Times.
Last quarter, the vaccine generated only $2 million for AstraZeneca, compared to this quarter’s $275 million, which accounts for 4% of the company’s total revenue. But the costs of producing and distributing the vaccine surpassed revenue. In contrast, Pfizer plans to generate $15 billion in revenue in 2021 from its Covid vaccine BNT162b2.
68 million vaccine doses delivered
AstraZeneca delivered 68 million doses of its vaccine worldwide—56 million of which went to the EU and the UK—and another 48 million doses through COVAX, the World Health Organization’s procurement program for poor countries.
“We delivered solid progress in the first quarter of 2021 and continued to advance our portfolio of life-changing medicines,” CEO Pascal Soriot wrote in the earnings release. “We expect the impact of Covid to reduce and anticipate a performance acceleration in the second half of 2021.”