Germany's vaccine commission blocks AstraZeneca for under-65s

Germany says AstraZeneca jab should not be used on over-65s due to ‘insufficient testing data’ following outcry over claims it only has 8% efficacy in old people

  • German scientific panel said Oxford jab should only be used for 18-65 year olds
  • It did not support widely-debunked claim that jab is only 8% effective on seniors
  • But decision will add to tensions amid EU row with AstraZeneca over supplies 

Germany’s top vaccine panel said today it is not recommending the AstraZeneca jab only for over-65s because there is not enough evidence about whether it works on the elderly.

The panel of scientists said the Oxford/AstraZeneca product was ‘considered appropriate’ for 18-65 year-olds but should not be used for older people ‘based on available data’.  

‘There is currently insufficient data to assess the efficacy of the vaccine for persons aged 65 years and older,’ it said.

The commission did not lend any credence to the sensational claim published by German media on Monday that the jab was only eight per cent effective among over-65s, a theory debunked by the manufacturers and German health ministry. 

Instead, it said there was not enough data to make a decision either way – after AstraZeneca’s boss said the ‘very ethical’ Oxford scientists had slowed down trials on older people until the vaccine was proved to be safe. 

But Germany’s decision will add to the tensions between the EU and AstraZeneca amid an angry row about vaccine supplies, with the bloc lagging behind Britain in immunising its population against Covid-19.  

More to follow.  

Germany ‘s vaccine commission has recommended that the AstraZeneca jab only be used for under-65s because there is not enough evidence about whether it works on the elderly

The German vaccine commission (STIKO) did not give details about the data it had considered, but said  

AstraZeneca’s vaccine has not been granted approval yet for general use in the European Union, but the bloc’s medicines regulator EMA is poised to authorise it on Friday.

The German panel, STIKO did not detail the data from clinical trials on the vaccine on older people, but two prominent German media outlets had reported that the efficacy on above-65s was below 10 per cent.

The Handelsblatt economic daily had reported Monday that Berlin had estimated the efficacy of the jab among over-65s was just eight percent, citing unnamed sources.

Separately the Bild daily, quoting anonymous sources, said the efficacy rate was at ‘less than 10 percent’.

The reports had been rejected firmly by AstraZeneca as well as by the German health ministry.

‘A false claim does not become true just because it is repeated,’ a German health ministry spokesman said Wednesday, dismissing the reports.

He noted that it is a known fact that the AstraZeneca trials involved fewer older people than other manufacturers’.

But ‘that the efficacy is only eight percent is incomprehensible and in our view, wrong,’ he added.

Beyond questions over the efficacy of the vaccine on older people, AstraZeneca is currently embroiled in a row with the European Union after it said it could only supply a quarter of the doses it had promised for the first quarter of 2021.

The pharmaceutical giant’s chief executive Pascal Soriot said in an interview on Tuesday that his company was prioritising supplies to Britain, which signed its contract three months before the EU did.

He argued that the firm was only required to make a ‘best effort’ to supply the bloc.

The European Commission erupted in fury, demanding on Wednesday that the British-Swedish company make up for the delays by supplying doses from its UK factories.

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