Two German newspapers have been slammed globally after it reported the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine didn’t work in elderly people.
The German health ministry lashed the claim, saying there was “no data” to support the misreporting, that declared the vaccine was only 8 per cent effective in older people.
Scientists from around the globe, especially those in the UK where the Oxford vaccine was developed, also spoke out against the claim.
German newspapers Handelsblatt and Bild quoted government sources in their stories, who reportedly said the vaccine was showing very low efficacy in older populations.
“According to information given to Handelsblatt from coalition circles, the Federal Government only expects an effectiveness of 8 per cent among the over-65s,” wrote reporter Gregor Waschinski in the business newspaper.
Despite the push back, Waschinski doubled down on his reporting today.
Both Oxford University and AstraZeneca slammed the report, labelling it “completely incorrect”.
‘There is no basis for the claims of very low efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which have been circulating in the media,” Oxford University said.
‘The results of the clinical trials have already been published transparently in five peer-reviewed scientific publications showing similar immune responses in younger and older adults and a good safety profile, and high efficacy in younger adults.
“Furthermore, the preliminary efficacy data in older adults supports the importance of this vaccine for use in this population.”
Germany’s health ministry said the report was likely a misinterpretation of the data.
“The Federal Ministry of Health is unable to confirm current reports that the AstraZeneca vaccine is less effective,” the ministry said in a statement.
“At first glance, it seems that two things were confused in the reports: Around 8 per cent of the subjects in the AstraZeneca efficacy study were between 56 and 69 years of age, and only 3 to 4 per cent were over 70 years of age. From this, however, an effectiveness of only 8 per cent in older people cannot be derived.”
The debate around vaccines and their efficacy continues, especially now there have been mutant strains discovered.
Despite that, preliminary indications are that the vaccines in use so far in the European Union – by BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna – “will continue to be effective against at least the UK variant”, said Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency.
“I think the South African variant is more complicated, and we need additional work to determine the efficacy,” she added.
On possible post-vaccine immunity, she said clinical trial data did not look at transmission “but it is something that we’re asking the companies to look at”.
Some reports have suggested that the EMA may only approve the AstraZeneca jab for the under 55s.
“I’m not going to prejudge any decision because this is a scientific and expert discussion that is ongoing. But it is possible to conclude an authorisation that would focus on a particular age group or it’s possible to conclude for a wider age group,” she said.