Boris Johnson Has Rejected German Claims The AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Should Not Be Given To The Over-65s
Boris Johnson dismissed suggestions from the German authorities that the AstraZeneca vaccine should not be given to the over-65s (PA)
Boris Johnson has said the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine “is effective across all age groups” after German authorities said it should not be given to the elderly.
An independent commission advising the government in Berlin said there is “insufficient data currently available to ascertain how effective the vaccination is above 65 years” for the vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical giant alongside Oxford University.
The jab has already been used hundreds of thousands of times in the UK, but asked if the German revelation was a worry, the Prime Minister replied flatly: “No.”
Speaking on a visit to Scotland he said: “I think that the MHRA, our own authorities, have made it very clear that they think the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is very good and efficacious, gives a high degree of protection after just one dose, and even more after two doses, and the evidence that they've supplied is that they think that it is effective across all age groups.
“It provides them a good immune response across all age groups, so I don't agree with that.”
The draft guidance from the Standing Vaccine Commission at the Robert Koch Institute, which is Germany’s main public health agency, recommends the AstraZeneca vaccine only be used for people aged between 18 and 64.
It is the latest development in the row between the firm and European nations over delivery of the jab, which so far has yet to get final approval from the EU’s medicines regulator, though it has several hundred million doses on order.
It was approved for use by the UK’s regulator the MHRA last month and hundreds of thousands of the over 70s in Britain have been given their first dose in recent weeks.
Earlier this week German media reported the jab was only 8% effective among the over-65s, quoting government sources.
Ministers later claimed the figure had been quoted mistakenly, but AstraZeneca slammed the reports as “completely incorrect”.
In response to the Robert Koch Institute statement today Public Health England hit back, with its head of immunisations Dr Mary Ramsay saying: “Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are safe and provide high levels of protection against COVID-19, particularly against severe disease.
“There were too few cases in older people in the AstraZeneca trials to observe precise levels of protection in this group, but data on immune responses were very reassuring.”
She added: “The risk of severe disease and death increase exponentially with age – the priority is to vaccinate as many vulnerable people as possible with either vaccine, to protect more people and save more lives.”
And a Number 10 spokesman said the UK's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, had told the Cabinet earlier this week the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine “remains both safe and effective and that the trials showed similar immune responses in both younger and older adults”.
It comes after the EU Commission claimed doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in the UK should be exported to the continent to make up for a shortfall at a production facility near Brussels.
And after accusations the firm was diverting vaccines to other countries, Belgian authorities carried out an inspection at the factory "to make sure that the delivery delay is indeed due to a production problem”.
AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot argued supply chain "teething issues" were fixed in the UK ahead of the bloc, because Britain signed a contract three months earlier.
But EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “We reject the logic of first come first served. That may work at the neighbourhood butchers but not in contracts."
And she added there have been "constructive" talks with the firm after saying it is contractually obliged to send jabs produced in the UK to 27 EU member states.
"The UK factories are part of our advance purchase agreements and that is why they have to deliver," Ms Kyriakides said.