‘Messy trials, manufacturing nightmares, and political and economic rivalry’: Behind the scenes at the AstraZeneca and Oxford vaccine blunders

Credit: Sky News
Credit: Sky News

The story of the vaccine that AstraZeneca developed with the University of Oxford is marked by noble intentions, communication blunders, messy trials, manufacturing nightmares, and political and economic rivalry. Most seriously, the shot is facing a spate of reports that a small number of people who received it, most of them younger than 60, developed a rare form of cerebral blood clotting.

Other than a nasal spray for flu, though, Astra had almost no experience in vaccines… Some potential for dysfunction was baked into the process from the start. 


Out of the public eye, though, the scientists at Oxford realized they’d miscalculated the concentration of the vaccine, which had led some Phase III trial participants to receive a half-dose.

Around the same time, the team decided to move from a one-shot to a two-shot regimen after seeing signs it would produce better protection… but the miscalculation and the decision to add a second shot meant the team would need to make more vaccine. That in turn delayed the second jab for a large number of volunteers.

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“AstraZeneca looked like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight,” says [a] former senior Trump administration figure. “It was almost an attitude of: If they make it, they make it; if they don’t, they don’t.”


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