AstraZeneca and University of Oxford dismiss German media claims about vaccine efficacy in elderly

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Mongkolchon Akesin
© GettyImages/Mongkolchon Akesin

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AstraZeneca along with its scientific partners at the University of Oxford have rejected German media reports that their vaccine against COVID-19 has low efficacy in people aged over 65.

German daily newspapers, Handelsblatt​ and Bild​, cited anonymous sources in Germany's government as alleging that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine had an efficacy rate of 8% among the elderly, those 65 years old and above. 

Those publications also reported that German government officials did not expect that vaccine to be approved for use on over-65s by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as a result.

The EMA emergency authorization for the vaccine is expected at the end of this week.

A University of Oxford spokesperson, in an emailed statement to BioPharma-Reporter, said that there is no basis for the claims of very low efficacy in the elderly for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that have been circulating in the media.

“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.”

A spokesman for AstraZeneca told us that the reports the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine efficacy is as low as 8% in adults over 65 years are “completely incorrect.”

The pharma company said that, in the UK, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) supported use of the vaccine in this population and the UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), included this group without dose adjustment in the authorization for emergency supply.

“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.”

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