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Corrupt Propositions: AstraZeneca, Public Institutions and the Coronavirus Vaccine Drive

Putting your destiny into the hands of a drug company is much like seeking reassurances from an opportunistic pimp. The returns are bound to mixed, dressed up in deceptive language. The promises, however, are always remarkable. The back-breaking pace in finding a vaccine for COVID-19 is something that is bringing out the pimps of industry, notably those in Big Pharma.

One such candidate is the British-based AstraZeneca, which has busied itself with striking vaccine-agreements with alliances and countries across the globe. Last month, a bombastic press release from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it was responding to President Donald Trump’s call made under “Operation Warp Speed” to produce “at least 300 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine AZD1222” in collaboration with the company to be “delivered as early as October 2020.” AZD1222 is a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by the University of Oxford but licensed to the company.

The agreement between AstraZeneca and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) “will accelerate the development and manufacturing of the company’s investigational vaccine to begin Phase 3 clinical studies this summer with approximately 30,000 volunteers in the United States.” There is much in the way of offsetting costs: BARDA promises up to $1.2 billion in support.

The pharma giant is spreading itself ambitiously. While the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, and the US biotech company Moderna, have also dedicated themselves to the quest of developing a coronavirus vaccine, they seem dwarfed by the entrepreneurial gravitas of AstraZeneca. There are agreements, for instance, with the Norway-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the international vaccine alliance. Similar understandings have been reached with the United Kingdom and the Serum Institute of India, the latter promising up to 1 billion doses.

On Saturday, a deal between four EU countries (Germany, France, Italy and The Netherlands) and the Anglo-Swedish giant was announced capitalising on momentum gathered from the US deal. The agreement between Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance and AstraZeneca, should it be successful, will also make any resulting vaccine available to any EU country willing to participate. The company’s CEO Pascal Soriot could be forgiven for feeling a little cocky. “This agreement will ensure that hundreds of millions of Europeans have access to the Oxford University’s vaccine following its approval.”

The concern here is how uncritically willing government officials are willing to get into the king sized bed that is Big Pharma. Behind every drugs company celebration is a scandal and behind that scandal an entire platoon of lawyers, publicists and regulators. To that end, the field of AstraZeneca’s improprieties, actual and alleged, is vast. Its operations, at times, have resembled those of the most daring privateers and cutthroat mercantilists.

In 2016, AstraZeneca agreed to pay $5.5 million in a settlement over charges they had violated the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Improper payments had been made to health care providers based in Russia and China between 2005 and 2010. Such conduct interested the US Securities and Exchanges commission, which instituted cease-and-desist proceedings which had the effect of inducing an offer of settlement. In the words of the order, AZN “failed to devise and maintain a sufficient system of internal accounting controls relating to the interactions of its China and Russia subsidiaries with government officials, the vast majority of whom were health care providers (‘HCPs’), at state-owned and state-controlled entities in China an Russia.”

The company also has a few stand outs on the product side of things, a salient warning to governments the world over that doing deals with such an entity is potentially harmful and inherently corrupting. Seroquel, AstraZeneca’s second best-selling pharmaceutical, was promoted by the company to physicians and psychiatrists between 2001 and 2006 for mental disorders not covered by US Food and Drug Administration approval. (The approval range spanned the treatment of schizophrenia, short term treatment for certain manic episodes linked to bipolar disorder, and then, in 2006, bipolar depression.)

A whistleblower lawsuit subsequently alleged that the company had marked Seroquel to cover everything from dementia to anger management, post-traumatic stress disorder and sleeplessness. Doctors were also paid to give advice to the company on how best to market the drug for unapproved uses. Resorting to a technique it has come to master over the years, AstraZeneca refused to admit liability for such a marketing strategy while still paying $520 million in the civil suit.

Such short and sharp practice has extended to manipulating the clinical record, something that should make any investors into a COVID-19 vaccine vary. The company has been known to fudge the results of clinical trials, stressing supposedly positive findings while diligently hiding nastier ones. The notorious CAFE (Comparison of Atypicals in First Episode) study on comparing the effectiveness of three “atypical” antipsychotic drugs – Seroquel, Zyprexa and Risperdal – was accused by Cardiff University’s David Healy, a senior psychiatrist, of being “a non-study of the worst kind”, designed as “an entirely marketing-driven exercise” rather than having any scientific value. The criteria of effectiveness – for instance, whether the drugs were taken to the end of the study – suggested that the designers from the AstraZeneca were only interested in one thing: that candidates using them stuck with the programme. This said nothing about effectiveness as such, a point made even more glaring by the study’s omission of older antipsychotics.

The speed of this entire exercise is also a danger. Speed can be fatal in scientific endeavours, be it in terms of the outcome, or in terms of the mission. This is also being prompted by what can politely be described as a paradox. The leader of the Oxford University group and Soriot have one big lament: that declining transmission rates in countries with experimental vaccines may doom the effectiveness of any potential product to combat COVID-19. Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford, put it rather curiously to the Sunday Telegraph: his team was facing the prospect that the virus might actually disappear. Good for some; not for others. “Now the problem we will have, I think,” claimed Soriot, “is we are running against time a little bit, because we see already the disease in Europe is declining.”

All that cash promised and expended; all those potential profits that just might go begging. Coronavirus may yet prove to have a few more tricks to bedevil those on the vaccine trail, but the problem of Big Pharma’s corruption of public institutions remains a stubborn warning. So far, it is not being heeded.

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  1. Bertie

    Binoy, it’s a vast field. Vaccines: I’ve had a few but after my last reaction, never again. For others it is a different story, many people are keen for this final solution to covid19. I’m a newbie in this field and only know enough to be very skeptical of quick fixes. You might find some more facts here: Senator Robert F Kennedy Jr @
    For ‘balance’ you can try this page from snopes, not sure what involvement their fact checker Vice Vixen had @ Cheers.

  2. Matters Not

    Bertie – for ‘balance’ one does not match a Professor of Dentistry, for example, with the metaphorical Wally who specializes in tooth removal via a piece of string attached to a heavy door. So it is with Senator Robert F Kennedy Jr who is an anti-vaxxer of long standing. This site is not Face Book! So while ‘facts’ are essential, they are often only part of any debate.

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—Joe and Kathleen’s brother and Maeve’s uncle—is part of this campaign to attack the institutions committed to reducing the tragedy of preventable infectious diseases. He has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines.

    That particular Kennedy has no medical qualifications whatsoever.

  3. king1394

    Why is it that as soon as you say “vaccine” a lot of people cease to think critically. The level of faith in the benevolence of pharmaceutical companies will definitely lead to the development of a profitable vaccine which may well be mandatory . Too tragic if such vaccine is ineffective, short-lived in its effects or damaging in the long-term

  4. Matters Not


    Why is it that as soon as you say “vaccine” a lot of people cease to think critically

    Yes – it is a worry. Most people (me included) wouldn’t have a clue as to the efficacy (or otherwise) of any vaccine because it’s way beyond the capabilities and capacities of the average person – even including those who have medical qualifications. That’s why Australia (generally) follows the lead given by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research External (CBER) which is responsible for regulating vaccines in the United States.

    A Drug Company may develop a vaccine but unless it is approved via a multi-step process, it won’t get a legal imprimatur. Further, the FDA has an ongoing monitoring role. That’s why the process is so painstaking.

    In theory, ‘faith’ is not a way of knowing for scientists. That’s reserved for those who have a magical interpretation of reality. And while science doesn’t get it right all the time, it’s the best method or approach we have at the moment.

  5. Bertie

    king1394, why do some people fail to think critically about vaccines? Vaccination is now a religion for many and to that fervent group, a slickly promoted mix of mysterious chemicals with exotic names answers their prayer for good health with minimum fuss and effort. Forget good diet and exercise, just line up for a jab, too easy. btw, flip business tycoon Bill Gates or whichever drug company a lazy $400 per jab (picked up the taxpayer) on the way. Non-believers, aka non-entities, should be shouted down as heretics and any scientific evidence they present should be treated in the same way as damning evidence from adverse tobacco studies decades ago.
    I’ll believe in vaccines the day the CDC publishes results showing better health outcomes for ‘vaxxers’ vs ‘anti-vaxxers’ @ 2, 5 &10 years after drug admin. Let us see the results for these two groups: those who took vaccines and those who didn’t; and secondly, when ‘scientists’ are mandated to conduct vaccine trials using a saline solution placebo and not the current practice of using placebos laced with aluminium adjuvants.
    Media outlets will never look at the issues due to threat of advertising revenue declines from their brother in arms – Big Pharma.

  6. Matters Not

    Bertie sometimes you don’t have to wait very long at all to see the outcome(s) of listening to anti-vaxxer nonsense. Here’s some news you may not have caught up with:

    The 2019 Samoa measles outbreak began in September 2019. As of 6 January 2020, there were over 5,700 cases of measles and 83 deaths, out of a Samoan population of 200,874. Over three percent of the population were infected. The cause of the outbreak was attributed to decreased vaccination rates, from 74% in 2017 to 31–34% in 2018, even though nearby islands had rates near 99%.

    Guess your deity failed to notice the numbers dead and dying and to rescue these feverent believers. As to be expected, there are so many factual errors in your post, you deserve pity.

  7. jon chesterson

    Vaccine pigs and guinea pigs – The mercenary behaviour of big pharmaceuticals, and AstraZeneca is no baby getting its claws into the money, governments or commercial and strangling supply commercially or legally by any means regardless of the effectiveness of the vaccine or reliability of the research.

  8. Bertie

    For those bored with sitting on the fence and still debating the need for vaccines, this chart shows a wider perspective of how vaccinations came a little late to the party in the decline in measles: Measles deaths 1901 to vaccination –
    “Measles vaccine has destroyed natural Herd Immunity and replaced it with a temporary and inadequate quasi Herd Immunity that necessitates a dependence on vaccination along with an increased risk of severe adverse outcomes.”

    Notes on Herd Immunity from Andrew Wakefield

    Meanwhile back at Elmhurst Hospital it’s about to blow up in administrator’s faces compliments of a whistleblower:

  9. Matters Not

    Bertie – methinks you’re on a mission of sorts – a would-be prophet peddling a false gospel. Yesterday, you self described as a newbie in this field so ’tis amazing how far you’ve come in such a short time – unless of course you were telling porkies.

    Think you’ll find that most people (parents in particular) aren’t sitting on the fence and if they were, the links you provide would sway only the mentally challenged. Most parents (unfortunately not all) these days listen to medical professionals and have their offspring vaccinated at the appropriate time. To do otherwise is akin to abuse by omission.

  10. Bertie

    MN, compliments of Lockdown I had time to spare in research. Once a clearer picture as to how Big Pharma runs its narrative and peddles its psuedo-science (rigging results, changing parameters half way tests, etc) came into focus, then a few unconnected events in my life suddenly made sense eg my asthma and the health situation of several other people I am acquainted with. I have no ‘mission’ in this, simply presenting an alternative narrative to those who are still on the fence. I can see you have found other sources of scientific evidence or material that suits your current needs so good luck to you, at least you are researching.

    As if by magic yesterday I found a study I was hoping the CDC would do on “health outcomes for “vaxxers vs anti-vaxxers” here:
    Sage Journals Open Medicine – Analysis of health outcomes in vaccinated and unvaccinated children
    In summary – for vaccinated children, developmental delays and ear infections were twice as likely, and asthma 4 times more likely. Hard to ignore evidence, but watch msm ignore it.

  11. Matters Not

    Bertie – Relying on ‘magic’ as a way of knowing is never recommended and more so when you have access to Google. As I stated above, because I’m not qualified to make medical diagnosis I rely on those who are. Same with medical research findings and those who conduct same. So to your link. And its Authors in particular. – but only as an opener.

    The study was conducted by Brian S Hooker and Neil Z Miller. Are you aware that the first author of the 2020 study (Hooker) is a chemical engineer who previously published a now-retracted study purportedly showing higher rates of autism in African-American boys who had been vaccinated. That study was was accused of having used “fraudulent methods and failed to disclose conflicts of interest”. The Journal, Health Feedback, also covered the retracted study in an earlier review. The second author of the 2020 study is Neil Z. Miller, a journalist without any training in biology or medicine, who has published other questionable studies in the past.

    At that point, alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear – at least for me. So you have a chemical engineer with an absence of credibility (to put it mildly) and a journalist without medical qualifications (plus a questionable track record) as your authorities. Methinks you have a serious problem right there. But wait – there’s more. Much more!

    Scientists who evaluated the study told Health Feedback that it contains numerous methodological flaws, one of which is the non-representative sample population. … According to a 2019 CDC report on vaccine coverage, only 1.3% of U.S. children had received no vaccinations at two years of age, yet “30% of children in their sample of three pediatric practices had received no vaccines,”

    Presumably you can see that their sample is in no way representative of the population at large. That alone makes their study a complete crock. Again there’s more! As David Gorski, a professor of surgery explains re convenience samples (on which this study is based):

    are rarely representative of the general population and therefore cannot be generalized. Others include bias and over- or under-representation of the population. Basically, no matter how you analyze a convenience sample, you can’t generalize it to the larger population.

    Not good! Then there’s what might be labelled as mala fides – bad faith.

    A single significant relationship was seen for the head injury control diagnosis at the 18-month vaccination cut-off, which may be indicative of differences in healthcare-seeking behavior among families of vaccinated versus un-vaccinated children.” But the authors did not follow up on this by informing the reader of its significance or how it might affect their conclusions .

    An academic crime of sorts. Also worth noting. As is typical for this type of claim, the posts have most commonly been shared by Facebook groups that oppose vaccines, but also by groups that promote conspiracy theories.

    Bertie – you will have to do much better in future posts! But in the future you won’t have me as a reader. No time for those who choose to be seriously bewildered. For those seeking more detail, here’s a link.

  12. Bertie

    Looks like I just got schooled which is a good thing. Schooling offers the chance to expand understanding. I learned a few things from MN’s post, including some flaws in the material I posted and MN’s technique of attempting to destroy an argument. So to a few adjustments to the earlier post.

    Firstly, Brian Hooker, a chemical engineer, submitted his paper to SAGE, it was peer-reviewed by medical experts 4 times over 18 months then published, so that’s good enough for me. I imagine SAGE foresaw criticism coming so did it’s due diligence.
    The title of the SAGE study is “Analysis of health outcomes in vaccinated and unvaccinated children”.
    What sort of study would it be if the authors had compared at the 98.7%:1.3% ratio suggested by HealthFeedback? If one was to compare the health outcomes of 987 vaccinated to 13 unvaccinated two year olds that would be all but meaningless.

    MN cites ‘HealthFeedback’ which leads to the WHO (one of Bill Gates’ favourite charities) -
    “Description of the website: The website of Health Feedback is a member of the WHO-led project Vaccine Safety Net (VSN).”
    So, what is happening over at VSN? How can I possibly guess whack-a-mole Bill Gates is about to pop up –
    “Description of the website: The website of the Immunization Academy is a member of the WHO-led project Vaccine Safety Net (VSN). . . Immunization Academy is a global learning initiative . . .sponsored by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “

    Great, it’s our mate Bill Gates again. He’s a bit like coronavirus, all over the place, shows up when least expected, no known cure and social distance has no meaning to the man. In fact Bill (or one of his reps) wants to get close enough to you to mandatorily force a concoction of drugs and DNA altering substances into your body asap. If the reader believes this will be a one-off affair I almost envy your naive. Any future flu season will present the opportunity for the mandatory mad-hatters to stab everyone with a vaccine – after all, it’s all about the Medical Martial Law stupid. This from 2018, Brisbane flu:

    Big Pharma tends to get itself into a tizzy any time its narcissist and schizophrenic agenda to profit from sicknesses being caused by vaccines is questioned. The goto method of mudding the waters is to grab hold of the good old CIA psy-op trigger word ‘CONSPIRACY’ and get the msm puppets to pump out the message. No surprise MN fell into that trap, it is learned behaviour and its use ubiquitous, we have all been subliminally indoctrinated – until one sees through it.

    But what is this ‘conspiracy’ by parents who claim on Fakebook to have had their children (one million in the US alone) injured by vaccines? Have parents enrolled themselves and their children in acting classes to ham up conditions in order to sue Big Pharma or what? Choreography might work in a hospital corridor where staff go to dance and clap, but in a family setting? No, I don’t believe the effected parents and children are faking it. Others can think so if that is their mindset. To me, anyone lucky enough to not be effected negatively by vaccines should be thankful and at least have the decency to listen to those who say they have been effected – that’s called compassion. As a final note, as if by magic, I see the Aust Vaccination-risks Network has a Vaxxed Bus touring Oz from July this year.

  13. Matters Not

    Bertie re your latest link re the anti-vaccination chiropractor Simon Floreani and his wife anti-vaccination chiropractor Jennifer Barham-Floreani,

    The Floreani’s are/were professional members of the disgraced anti-vaccination pressure group, the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network (the AVN literally has a public health warning against its name). … Floreani is now mostly known in Australia for his unrepentant anti-vaccination activism which has included previous sanction by the Chiropractic Board of Australia.

    When even the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia throws you shade…

    Looks like you’re batting zero. And you could do yourself a ‘communications’ favor by appreciating the difference between ‘effected’ and ‘affected’. As well as its and it’s. …

    Effected means to actually do something, to execute, produce or bring about something. It’s an action word of actually doing something, i.e. “He effected a reorganization of the finance department.” Affected is used to describe something being impacted.

    Yet you claim to do ‘research’ and advise people how to abuse children via omission. Should be agin’ the law because you’re a potential health hazard. But probably not because no person here is taking you seriously. LOL!

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