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There are numerous news stories circulating that claim that before signing an exclusive deal with AstraZeneca to manufacture their COVID-19 vaccine, they had previously pledged to donate the license for the vaccine to any drug maker capable of producing it. See an example here.

However, following the link cited in that article brings you to Oxford's page about COVID IP which may have been modified since, and which makes no specific pledges about the vaccine, stating only that

The default approach of the University and OUI [...] will be to offer non-exclusive, royalty-free licenses to support free of charge, at-cost or cost + limited margin supply as appropriate, and only for the duration of the pandemic, as defined by the WHO.

I have been unable to surface any conclusive reporting predating the AstraZeneca exclusive licensing deal where Oxford made any specific pledges about the licensing of their vaccine.

Did Oxford make or release any public statement or pledge about its vaccine specifically that is contradicted by signing an exclusive deal with AstraZeneca as alleged in the above article?

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Technically no, but...

One can understand why there might be strong feelings.

following the link cited in that article brings you to Oxford's page about COVID IP which may have been modified since

We can clear that one up by using the Wayback Machine to check changes to that page. The article was written on August 25, 2020. The first available version of Oxford's page from April 9th, 2020 contains the same text as the August 17th, 2020 version, and the most current on Feb 21st, 2021.

The Oxford page was not modified.

The relevant bits are...

  1. OU and OUI will expedite access to Oxford IP to enable global deployment at scale of associated products and services to address the COVID-19 pandemic

  2. The default approach of the University and OUI regarding (1) will be to offer non-exclusive, royalty-free licences to support free of charge, at-cost or cost + limited margin supply as appropriate, and only for the duration of the pandemic, as defined by the WHO

...

The University and Oxford University Innovation Ltd will wherever possible adhere to the above principles, subject to our obligations to 3rd party funders and to cases where the overarching principle (1) can only be achieved by a different approach. All licences granted under these principles will preserve the University’s academic research freedoms to publish and use the IP for teaching and research purposes.

What they're pledging is to "expedite access to Oxford IP to enable global deployment at scale... to address the COVID-19 pandemic". The "non-exclusive, royalty-free licences" is their "default approach" but not required. They're allowing themselves other approaches if they determine that expediting access "can only be achieved by a different approach".

It's a fairly common way to favor a particular approach without limiting options; they'd prefer the high road, but if an exclusive deal is what it takes so be it. This can be interpreted as weasel words allowing them to cash in, or interpreted as putting getting the vaccine in people's arms above any IP considerations. The Wall Street Journal has an article about the back-and-forth between Oxford, Vaccitech, and AstraZeneca Oct 22nd, 2020

Neither Oxford's announcement nor AstraZeneca's announcement April 30th, 2020 mention the exclusive licensing terms. Oxford focused on the not-for-profit nature of the decision.

Under the new agreement, as well as providing UK access as early as possible if the vaccine candidate is successful, AstraZeneca will work with global partners on the international distribution of the vaccine, particularly working to make it available and accessible for low and medium income countries.

Both partners have agreed to operate on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, with only the costs of production and distribution being covered. Oxford University and its spin-out company Vaccitech, who jointly have the rights to the platform technology used to develop the vaccine candidate, will receive no royalties from the vaccine during the pandemic. Any royalties the University subsequently receives from the vaccine will be reinvested directly back into medical research, including a new Pandemic Preparedness and Vaccine Research Centre. The centre is being developed in collaboration with AstraZeneca.

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