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AstraZeneca CEO Soriot questions value of annual COVID boosters in healthy people

With AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine having lost much of its relevance and the company hinting a week ago that it might get out of the vaccine business altogether, CEO Pascal Soriot is free to shoot from the hip.

Over the weekend, Soriot told The Telegraph that annual COVID booster shots are “not a good use” of taxpayer money in all people.

“People who are otherwise healthy—especially if they are young, have been vaccinated, have had a boost already—boosting them again, I’m just not sure it’s really a good use of resources,” Soriot told the publication.

Pointing to research, Soriot added that healthy people should be protected against severe disease “more than a year, for sure,” and that the benefit could sustain for three or four years.

Boosting the elderly is still a good strategy given that they are more at risk of infection and progressing to a severe form of the virus, the AZ helmsman added.

When the pandemic struck, AZ and Oxford University were quick to develop a vaccine. But the shot was hindered by safety concerns and manufacturing problems early in its rollout.

The vaccine never was approved in the United States and sales limped along in Europe, which showed a preference for mRNA shots from Moderna and Pfizer. AZ found a market in lesser developed countries but never came close to generating the same level of sales as its rivals. Plus, AZ sold its vaccine at cost for much of the pandemic.

Last week, Soriot told Reuters that the company was reconsidering its future with vaccines.

“I can’t be sure we will be there or not,” he said.

In his discussion with The Telegraph, Soriot also addressed another elephant in the room—AZ’s inability to create more demand for Evusheld, its antibody treatment that can help protect immunocompromised people from COVID.

The UK has turned away from Evusheld.

“All other countries in Europe and the US, and elsewhere have decided they need to allocate some budget to the immunocompromised,” Soriot said. “The UK thinks it needs to allocate its budget elsewhere.”