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AstraZeneca’s vaccine testing stumble draws investor lawsuit

Pharmaceutical company being sued by a pension fund.
Vials of the AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford Covid-19 vaccine at the Royal Health and Wellbeing Centre in Oldham, UK. Image: Anthony Devlin/Bloomberg

AstraZeneca was sued by a pension fund on behalf of investors who it says suffered losses because of flaws in the company’s testing of its coronavirus vaccine.

For much of last year, the Cambridge, England-based pharmaceutical company was touting strong progress on the development of its traditional-style vaccine and announced that it had signed contracts to provide 400 million doses. But in November, questions emerged about the vaccine when the company released initial test results.

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Among other things, experts and health officials faulted the testing for a lack of data on the vaccine’s effectiveness for those 55 and older. They also raised questions about results from one trial that found the vaccine 90% effective for subjects who got a half a dose but only 62% effective for those who got the full dose.

In the three days after the release of the test results in late November, AstraZeneca’s stock price dropped 5%, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday by the public employees’ retirement system in Monroe County, Michigan.

Alleging “wrongful acts and omissions” by the company and its chief officers, the pension fund is asking to be allowed to sue on behalf of a class of all investors injured by the share price decline.

AstraZeneca didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company’s vaccine is being administered in the UK but has yet to be approved for use in the EU or US.

The case is Monroe County Employees’ Retirement System v Astrazeneca PLC, 21-cv-00722, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

© 2021 Bloomberg

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