As American taxpayers, we are justified in asking why the United States government is giving a billion dollars to a British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, to develop a very early stage Covid-19 vaccine.

Mind you, I am not particularly upset that AstraZeneca is British company, nor that the vaccine candidate was developed by an English research team. I have questioned government funding of Moderna, an American company, as well.

My concerns are several. First, AstraZeneca is an incredibly profitable pharmaceutical company. Last year, their sales grew at a rate of 12 percent to a total of $23.5 billion. Profit margins on their proprietary pharmaceutical products are typically in the range of 80 percent. And their budget for advertising and promoting those products? Also in the billions.

Given this, does AstraZeneca really need an additional business incentive of a billion dollars to fight a disease that has devastated economies the world over, and more particularly their own market for drugs? It is well documented that stay-at-home practices have significantly reduced doctor’s visits and pharmaceutical sales. Creating a vaccine would seem to be in the company’s best interest, as well as a public service for which they might be well paid.

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Originally posted on Forbes (May 26, 2020)