The British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca announced on Wednesday May 8 that it was withdrawing from sale its Covid-19 vaccine Vaxzevria (the name of the AstraZeneca vaccine), one of the first put on the market during the pandemic, citing commercial reasons.

“Given that multiple vaccines against Covid-19 have been developed, there is a surplus of updated vaccines” in the face of different variants of the virus, “which has resulted in a decline in demand,” he said. justified the group in a press release. “AstraZeneca has therefore taken the decision to initiate the withdrawal of the marketing authorization for Vaxzevria in Europe,” according to the document received on Wednesday by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) wrote on its website on Tuesday that the sales authorization for Vaxzevria had been withdrawn “at the request of the marketing authorization holder”, namely the pharmaceutical laboratory. The group will also “work with other regulators around the world to initiate withdrawals of marketing authorizations for Vaxzevria where there is no expected future demand for the vaccine.”

In its press release, AstraZeneca said it wanted to “close this chapter”. A source close to the group told AFP that there had “not been any sales for some time”. “We are incredibly proud of the role Vaxzevria has played in ending the pandemic,” the statement added, claiming that “according to independent estimates, more than 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year alone of use” of the serum, “and more than 3 billion doses have been distributed worldwide.”

Vaccine having suffered several setbacks

Although AstraZeneca’s profit jumped 21% year-on-year in the first quarter, driven particularly by oncology sales, the group has been reporting for months a constant decline in sales of drugs linked to Covid-19 – all like its rival GSK, which had been largely left behind in the race to develop a vaccine.

This vaccine, one of the very first on the market even though serums were not AstraZeneca’s specialty, had suffered several setbacks, including marketing authorization which never arrived in the United States. . It also experienced delivery problems in Europe, combined with suspicions of increased risks of thrombosis following several deaths.

AstraZeneca says it updated information on Vaxzevria in April 2021, with the agreement of the British regulator MHRA, to include the possibility that it could trigger thrombosis in rare cases. The United Kingdom, which first relied on Vaxzevria at the start of its anti-Covid vaccination campaign, then replaced it with competing serums.

The group regularly recalls that regulators and various states which have authorized the vaccine have estimated that “the benefits of vaccination largely eclipse the risks of extremely rare side effects”.