Friday, June 14, 2024
HomeCOVID-19Carry on regardless – AZ keeps pushing dodgy vaccines

Carry on regardless – AZ keeps pushing dodgy vaccines


THE recent announcement that AstraZeneca has asked regulators around the world to revoke the authorisation for its Covid-19 vaccine, which is the Oxford ChAdOx-nCoV19 vaccine, is little cause for celebration. The dangerous Oxford-AstraZeneca ‘clot-shot’ was withdrawn simply because it has no commercial value to AstraZeneca, and there is no longer a public relations benefit to help it meet its obligation under the Companies Act to promote the success of the company in the interests of its members. However the underlying Oxford Chimpanzee Adenovirus ChAdOx vaccine ‘platform’ developed by Dr Adrian Hill and Dame Sarah Gilbert lives on. 

Oxford researchers began working with the adenoviral vector over 20 years ago when they collaborated with an Italian company on a malaria vaccine project. The ChAdOx platform is a DNA gene therapy of the same type used in the 1999 Pennsylvania trial during which 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger died of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and organ failure, two days after being dosed in the phase 1 safety trial. Rebranding the platform as a vaccine makes it more palatable to the public. 

AstraZeneca licensed the ChAdOx-nCoV19 vaccine from Oxford University in April 2020.  Announcing the collaboration Pascal Soriot, AZ Chief Executive Officer, said: ‘As Covid-19 continues its grip on the world, the need for a vaccine to defeat the virus is urgent. This collaboration brings together the University of Oxford’s world-class expertise in vaccinology and AstraZeneca’s global development, manufacturing and distribution capabilities. Our hope is that, by joining forces, we can accelerate the globalisation of a vaccine to combat the virus and protect people from the deadliest pandemic in a generation.’

The deployment of the vaccine began with a Regulation 174 authorisation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Agency (MHRA) for emergency supply issued on December 30, 2020, with then Health Secretary Matt Hancock claiming it was ‘the first treatment to reduce mortality for Covid-19’.  

Safety problems became apparent in the first 100 days, resulting in three Nordic countries suspending its use on March 11, 2021. The UK continued on regardless with the UK government saying in April 2021, ‘The MHRA’s scientific review of UK reports of extremely rare and unlikely to occur specific blood clots with lowered platelets has concluded that the evidence of a link with Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is stronger but more work is still needed.’  

Undeterred, the MHRA granted a conditional marketing authorisation for the product, now branded Vaxzevria, on June 24, 2021.  

In the first year of the rollout, AstraZeneca manufactured 2billion doses of the vaccine. Rather than repeating the usual ‘safe and effective’ mantra used to indoctrinate the masses, a November 2021 press statement could claim only that it had ‘an acceptable safety profile’.  

As Yellow Card reports on injuries mounted, Pascal Soriot, continuing to ignore the human cost in lives and limbs that were being lost as a consequence of the vaccine itself, talked up the unprovable benefits, presumably extrapolated statistically from the 72 per cent efficacy rate reported in the clinical trials, saying: ‘Our vaccine has played a key role in tackling the biggest public health emergency of our lifetime: an estimated million lives saved, 50 million infections prevented, two billion doses delivered. The numbers are remarkable, and I’d like to thank everyone who put their lives to one side to help in this incredible endeavour. While much of the world still has to be vaccinated, and there is still much more to do, today is a proud day and testament to what can be achieved when we all work together.’

Two-thirds of the doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine were distributed to low and middle income countries. It was marketed under two different names. Vaxzevria was supplied in the UK, Europe and Canada while the Covishield version, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), was supplied to COVAX, the vaccine facility established by GAVI, CEPI the World Health Organization and UNICEF to ensure no opt-out from the poorest countries.  SII stopped manufacturing it in December 2021 when orders dried up. 

Even the NHS quietly stopped using it in June 2022. Three days after the last stocks of the product authorised under Regulation 174 were distributed on May 13, 2022, NHS England issued guidance instructing vaccination staff to prioritise the use of the Regulation 174 product which was due to expire on May 31, 2022, over Vaxzevria, noting that there were legal differences between the two but not product handling differences.

Nevertheless AstraZeneca continued promoting it in July 2022, saying an expert review found it was as effective as the mRNA vaccines which were launched claiming 95 per cent efficacy, although no comparative study of safety could be done. A Mexican review of covid vaccine safety showed that Covishield had an even worse safety profile than Vaxzervia (12.6 serious adverse events per 100,000 doses vs 0.82).

While other companies cashed in multi-billion-pound profits on the covid vaccine bonanza, AstraZeneca oddly agreed to sell it on behalf of Oxford University without making a profit while the pandemic was ongoing. Companies are rarely so altruistic. Perhaps other more lucrative future benefits were anticipated, such as the potentially more remunerative line of cancer immunotherapy products the Jenner Institute is developing using vaccine platforms to deliver genetic material into tumours, first using the ChAdOx virus, and then boosting with a genetically modified smallpox vaccine [Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA)].

For now AZ has cast off a product that is bringing bad publicity. It acknowledged in a British court in February that 80 lives had been lost on account of its product. Had the MHRA done more regulating in 2020, and less enabling, the company might have been spared the bad publicity and, more importantly, those 80 people would still be alive. 

AZ has remained on the spotlight. Last Monday Brianne Dressen, a 42-year-old former teacher and a participant in AstraZeneca’s US clinical trial who was left disabled by the vaccine, began suing the company in US court for breach of contract. AZ is failing to provide any financial support for her continuing medical needs as promised when she signed up for the trial. Dressen and others injured in covid vaccine trials have highlighted their concerns over misleading consent forms that were ‘designed to elicit a consent to participation that might not have been forthcoming if volunteers for these clinical trials had been aware that what was outlined in principle was not likely to happen in practice’.

Despite this record of failure, injury and risk, we have not seen the last of the ChAdOx platform. Developing countries should be warned. On August 29, 2023, CEPI and the University of Oxford announced a strategic partnership under which the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is providing up to $80million in funding to Oxford to develop ChAdOx vaccine prototypes for use against ‘Disease X: the threat of unknown pathogens with the potential to cause pandemics’ aka whatever bogeyvirus CEPI plans to summon up next. Other announcements followed. 

In September 2023 Oxford said it was beginning a third Phase 1 trial of the ChAdOx-MERS vaccine which it claims was the prototype which enabled its covid vaccine to be rapidly developed. The first human trial of this vaccine intended for use in people and camels started in Saudi Arabia on December 19, 2019.  

On November 2, 2023, CEPI awarded Oxford $25million to develop vaccines against arenaviruses, which are less well known than Ebola but reputed to cause haemorrhagic fevers in South America. Perhaps the tendency of the SARS-CoV-2 adenovirus vaccines to cause blood clotting in recipients was factored in? In January 2024 Oxford began a trial of another CEPI-funded ChAdOx vaccine against Nipah, an encephalitis that emerged in Malaysia in 1999 in the wake of a disastrous Japanese encephalitis vaccination campaign.

CEPI remains supportive of ChAdOx as a ‘just in time, just in case’ technology, ‘one of only a handful . . . with proven capability as a platform on which safe and effective vaccines can be quickly developed and manufactured at scale and low cost’.

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, chair of UK Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) since 2013, a former member of WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts 2016-2022, chair of the Scientific Advisory Group on Vaccines at the European Medicines Agency from 2012-2020 and former member of the UK Vaccine Taskforce Expert Advisory Group, exudes confidence: ‘Building on our extensive experience in vaccine development over the past 30 years and world-leading response to Covid-19 with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, we will strive with CEPI to secure the safety of future generations against the ongoing threats from the microbial world.’

CEPI claims that pandemics are inevitable due to globalisation, urbanisation and climate change. The latter two claims are contradictory. Climate change, it is alleged, is contributing to pandemics as humans are encroaching on animal habitats and encountering an increasing number of exotic viruses of zoonotic origin. Utter nonsense when juxtaposed with increasing urbanisation which in developing countries often facilitates the spread of infectious diseases due to the absence of adequate sanitation and clean water.  

It is perhaps time that a global counter movement emerges to protect the world against the ongoing threat of hastily developed, unsafe and ineffective vaccines. 

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Paula Jardine
Paula Jardine
Paula Jardine is a writer/researcher who has just completed the graduate diploma in law at ULaw. She has a history degree from the University of Toronto and a journalism degree from the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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