AstraZeneca withdraws its COVID-19 vaccine from global market

May 8, 2024

AstraZeneca is withdrawing its COVID-19 vaccine from the market because of low demand, the drugmaker said Wednesday.

The shot, which was never authorized in the U.S., was widely used across the world in the early part of the global vaccine drive.

AstraZeneca’s shot was cheaper to make and easier to distribute than the mRNA shots from Pfizer and BioNTech, which mostly went to wealthy nations. It was the main shot being used by Covax, the global program to deliver vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.

More than 3 billion doses have been supplied globally since the shot was first approved for emergency use by British regulators in late 2020. The U.K. relied heavily on AstraZeneca’s shot initially but later purchased the mRNA vaccines for its COVID-19 booster campaign.

“We are incredibly proud of the role Vaxzevria played in ending the global pandemic. According to independent estimates, over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

“As multiple, variant COVID-19 vaccines have since been developed there is a surplus of available updated vaccines. This has led to a decline in demand for Vaxzervria, which is no longer being manufactured or supplied.”

AstraZeneca’s shot did not perform as well in clinical trials compared to the mRNA vaccines, though it was still effective in preventing severe disease and death from the virus. The company has not updated the vaccine to match different variants, as it relied on existing vaccine technology that made it more difficult to do so.

The company also requested that the European Medicines Agency withdraw licensing for its vaccine, a move that went into effect this week, the agency said in an update on its website.

Shortly after it was approved, there were reports across Europe that the vaccine was linked to rare blood clots.

The European Union’s top drug regulator concluded that the side effects, while rare, should be listed, and the company updated its product information in April 2021. Some countries restricted the shot’s use because of the clotting concerns, likely dampening uptake and demand.