AstraZeneca denies its vaccine is less efficient in the aged; battles with EU over supplies

A laboratory technicians handles vials of the University of Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine.


British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca is combating battles on a number of fronts this week — defending its coronavirus vaccine from studies that it might be less efficient in defending the aged and dealing with growing tensions with the EU over its delayed supplies to the bloc.

On Monday, the drugmaker defended its vaccine from studies in a number of German newspapers, Bild and Handelsblatt, that the AstraZeneca vaccine, created in conjunction with the University of Oxford, had a low efficacy price (of less than 10% and eight%, the papers mentioned, respectively) in the over-65s, the major goal group for having the vaccine as they’re extra prone to critical illness and demise.

Both cited unnamed officers in Germany’s authorities as saying that the vaccine had a poor efficacy price amongst individuals aged over 65 and mentioned this might have an effect on whether or not the vaccine is approved to be used amongst the aged.

AstraZeneca responded Monday night, saying in an announcement: “Reports that the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine efficacy is as low as 8% in adults over 65 years are completely incorrect.”

“In November, we published data in The Lancet demonstrating that older adults showed strong immune responses to the vaccine, with 100% of older adults generating spike-specific antibodies after the second dose,” it added.

It mentioned the U.Okay.’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises the authorities on its vaccination technique, had supported the vaccine’s use in the aged. It additionally mentioned that robust immune responses to the vaccine had been proven in blood evaluation of aged trial members.

Elderly trial members had been admitted later to section three medical trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which came about in the U.Okay. and Brazil, and earlier on in South Africa, and so there is less obtainable knowledge on the efficacy of the shot in the over-65s. Initial trials in the U.Okay. targeted on the under-55s to look at whether or not the vaccine was efficient for the majority of healthcare staff.

When AstraZeneca revealed its trial findings in the medical journal The Lancet in December, it mentioned, “as older age groups were recruited later than younger age groups, there has been less time for cases to accrue and as a result, efficacy data in these cohorts are currently limited by the small number of cases, but additional data will be available in future analyses.” CNBC has contacted AstraZeneca for remark following the studies.

Supply points

Tensions have been brewing since final week when the drug maker introduced that manufacturing points would imply it might ship far fewer doses to the EU than had been promised beforehand. The overwhelming majority of the AstraZeneca vaccine for distribution to the EU is being made in the U.Okay.

The EU was meant to obtain 80 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by March, in accordance with a senior unnamed official who spoke to Reuters final Friday, however the drug maker had knowledgeable the EU that the provide of doses could be diminished to some 31 million doses, a lower of round 60%.

“This new schedule is not acceptable to the European Union,” EU’s Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides mentioned in an announcement Monday, signaling that the EU might tighten the guidelines on the exports of Covid-19 vaccines.

“The European Union will take any action required to protect its citizens and rights,” she famous, having said earlier that “in the future, all companies producing vaccines against Covid-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries.”

Any limitations on vaccine exports from the EU might have an effect on supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot, which is manufactured in Belgium, to the U.Okay.

Commissioner Kyriakides mentioned on Monday that discussions with AstraZeneca representatives had “resulted in dissatisfaction with the lack of clarity and insufficient explanations.”

She added that “EU Member States are united: vaccine developers have societal and contractual responsibilities they need to uphold.” The EU has requested AstraZeneca to offer it with an in depth plan of vaccine deliveries and when distribution will happen, with additional discussions set for Wednesday.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine has not but been authorized to be used by the European Medicines Agency however Kyriakdes mentioned that would come by the finish of the week.

The concern over AstraZeneca supplies comes on prime of 1 from Pfizer and BioNTech who additionally warned in mid-January of quickly diminished output whereas they upgraded their manufacturing capability.

Shortages of provide are a bitter blow to the EU, whose vaccination drive already began (on Dec.27) later than these in the U.Okay. and U.S.

The EU has bought vaccines as a bloc (though some international locations have additionally pursued their very own unilateral offers too) with photographs set to be distributed primarily based on inhabitants dimension, however particular person international locations’ vaccination rollouts, including in Germany, have been very sluggish to this point.

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