On April 30th, AstraZeneca and Oxford University announced a "landmark agreement" for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. The agreement involves AstraZeneca overseeing aspects of the development as well as manufacturing and distribution while the Oxford side, via the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, researched and developed the vaccine. Less than a month after this agreement was reached, the Oxford-AstraZeneca partnership was awarded a contract from the US government as part of Operation Warp Speed, the public-private COVID-19 vaccination effort dominated by the US military and US intelligence.
Though the partnership was announced in April, Oxford's Jenner Institute had already begun developing the COVID-19 vaccine months before, in mid-January. According to a recent BBC report, it was in January that the Jenner Institute first became aware of how serious the pandemic would soon become, when Professor Andrew Pollard, who works for both the Jenner Institute and heads the Oxford Vaccine Group, "shared a taxi with a modeler who worked for the UK's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies." During the taxi ride, "the scientist told him data suggested there was going to be a pandemic not unlike the 1918 flu." Due to this sole encounter, we are told, the Jenner Institute then began to pour millions into the early development of a vaccine for COVID-19 well before the scope of the crisis was clear.
For much of 2020, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was treated as an early front-runner, though its lead would later be marred by scandals related to its clinical trials, including the death of participants, sudden trial pauses, the use of a problematic "placebo" with its own host of side effects and the "unintentional" mis-dosing of some participants that skewed its self-reported efficacy rate.
The significant issues that emerged during trials have provoked little concern from the vaccine's two lead developers, despite critical attention from even mainstream media of its complications. The lead developer of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Adrian Hill, told NBC on December 9th that the experimental vaccine should be approved and distributed to the public before the conclusion of the safety trials, saying,"to wait for the end of the trial would be the middle of next year. That's too late, this vaccine is effective, available at large scale and easily deployed."