By Ian Klane
February 12, 2021
On Thursday, January 28th, The Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine effort received pushback from public health advisors of the German government. They doubt the effectiveness of the vaccine on patients that are 65 years or older.
The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) at Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country’s main public health authority, found that there had not been enough people who were 65 or older enrolled in AstraZeneca’s vaccine trials.
STIKO has been quoted as saying that “There is currently insufficient data available to assess the effectiveness of vaccinations from 65 years of age.” The panel further stated that “no conclusion can be made regarding efficacy and safety in the elderly. This vaccine is therefore currently recommended by STIKO only for persons aged 18-64 years.”
The debate that has erupted in Europe over AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine is centering on the thoughts of the German government, with some German media outlets covering some government officials anonymously claiming the vaccine is only 8% to 10% effective in people older than 65. The German government, AstraZeneca company, and the University of Oxford have denied these reports.
Dr. Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisations at Public Health England, said both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are “safe and provide high levels of protection against Covid-19,” and MHRA Chief Executive Dr. June Raine saying that “current evidence does not suggest any lack of protection against Covid-19 in people aged 65 or over.”
The scientists who ran the vaccine trials started with younger volunteers to get results as quickly as possible, urgently trying to ensure that the vaccine would be able to work well enough to help combat the pandemic. Officials say that there is other evidence to suggest that the vaccine will work well in older adults. Studies have shown people 65 and older to have strong immune responses to the vaccine with their blood having plenty of the required antibodies.
With the German announcement coming as the EU is in dispute while leading manufacturers over a delay in delivery of Covid vaccines to the bloc, AstraZeneca production issues mean that its output of the vaccine will not be able to reach the promised number of doses. This delay in output poses a massive issue to the EU as they have ordered 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.