“We already have contracted for enough vaccines, from Moderna and from Pfizer and from [Johnson &Johnson],” he said. “There is no plan to immediately start utilizing the AstraZeneca [vaccine] even if it gets approved through the EUA, which it very well might.”
Fauci said it wasn’t because of the AstraZeneca vaccine itself, but rather that it’s not necessary in the US right now.
“It’s not any indictment against the product. We just have a lot of vaccines,” he said.
But experts advising the government on vaccine policy say that doesn’t paint the whole picture.
The three advisers spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivities surrounding AstraZeneca’s possible application to the FDA.
“I think they’re crossing their fingers that AstraZeneca won’t apply for emergency use authorization,” the adviser said. “This vaccine has a checkered past. There’s baggage. Why go down that road if we don’t have to?”
Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines have excellent safety records, with tens of millions of shots without any reported serious side effects.
“Everyone would raise questions — ‘You’re not giving me that new blood clotting vaccine, are you?'” another adviser said, referring to AstraZeneca’s vaccine. “Why muddy the waters with a vaccine that comes with a somewhat checkered reputation?”
The spokesperson wrote that the company is committed “to ensuring fair and equitable vaccine access to communities across the world, regardless of geography or income level,” and is “very proud of the progress that has been made so far” by the company and its global partners.
“Today the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) completed their assessment of extremely rare blood clotting events with low platelets from over 34 million people vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in the UK and EU,” according to the statement. “[The agencies] came to the view that these events have a possible link to the vaccine and requested they be listed as an extremely rare potential side effect. Overall, both of these reviews reaffirmed the vaccine offers a high-level of protection against all severities of COVID-19 and that these benefits continue to far outweigh the risks.”
The statement also said that the World Health Organization found that “a causal relationship [between the vaccines and blood clotting events] is considered plausible but is not confirmed.”
Advisers say they wouldn’t take AstraZeneca vaccine
CNN spoke with three government vaccine advisers who said they wouldn’t take the AstraZeneca shot if they had the option of taking the vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.
“All of them keep you out of the hospital and keep you from dying, but those three have a better safety profile,” one of the advisers said.
But they also said they would take AstraZeneca’s vaccine if it were the only one available to them.
One of the advisers remembered getting an email from an acquaintance in Germany asking if she should get the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was the only one available to her.
“I told her yes, absolutely,” the adviser said.
A ‘delicate’ spot for the FDA
The AstraZeneca spokesperson told CNN the company is “currently progressing submission to the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization.”
That could put the FDA in a tough spot.
A thumbs-down from the FDA — for whatever reason — would be problematic for two reasons.
“It will look as though we’re dumping our second-rate vaccine — ‘We don’t want to use it, but they can use it in Mali.’ That would look terrible,” one of the advisers said. “It’s a delicate situation for sure.”
An alternative would be to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine, explain that the US doesn’t need it, and then donate the US supply to countries with vaccine shortages.
But even so, other countries might still perceive it as dumping an inferior vaccine, the advisers said.
Some of the advisers told CNN they hope company executives change their minds.
“If I were AstraZeneca’s CEO, I might say, ‘what is the purpose of going to the FDA? If we get approved, our vaccine isn’t going to be used [in the US], and that will be demonstrated in the press, and our reputation will be besmirched,'” the adviser said.
If they don’t apply, the adviser said, the company could “save face and still promote its vaccine around the world.”