AstraZeneca: Negative headlines dent brand perceptions during US vaccine trial

Christien PhebyContent Manager
April 29, 2021, 10:20 AM UTC

As one of three major manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines, AstraZeneca enjoyed a solid start to 2021. Impression scores from YouGov BrandIndex, which track whether consumers have a good or bad view of a particular drug brand, were positive (14.9) – as were Buzz scores (14.8) which measure whether consumers have heard good or bad news about a brand in the past two weeks. Overall Index scores – a composite measure of brand health calculated by taking the average of Impression, Quality, Value, Satisfaction, Recommend, and Reputation – were 11.7.  

By the end of Q1, however, the story changed. In March 2021, reports of a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots in patients began to emerge – causing consumers to increasingly see the vaccine as unsafe, and leading several European countries to temporarily suspend its use.   

The blood clot story – along with accusations that the company was using “outdated and potentially misleading data” during its ongoing clinical trials in the US – appears to have had knock-on effects on AstraZeneca’s American brand perception.   

Impression scores – which sat at 14.8 on March 15, when Germany, France, Italy and Spain briefly suspended use of the shot – fell to 2.6 (-12.2) a month later (April 15). Over the same period, Buzz scores plummeted from 10.8 to -7.8 (-18.6), and Reputation scores – which measure whether a consumer would be proud or embarrassed to work for a particular company – almost halved from 15.5 to 7.8 (-7.7). Meanwhile, Recommendation scores, which measure whether consumers would advocate for a brand to a friend or colleague, declined from 11.2 to 1.6 (-9.6). Unsurprisingly, AstraZeneca’s Brand health also took a hit, falling from 10.7 to 3.8.  

The WHO – along with EU and UK regulators – has concluded that the benefits of the jab outweigh the potential risks, and has recommended that vaccinations continue. American officials have also said that they intend to share AstraZeneca supplies with other countries while the vaccine awaits authorisation in the US. That’s a shot in the arm for a brand which has evidently struggled in the US over the past few months.  

Receive monthly topical insights about the health and pharmaceutical industry, straight to your inbox. Sign up today

Discover more health and pharma content  here