The European Medicines Agency’s approval for the vaccine AstraZeneca, granted in late January, did little or nothing to increase confidence in the medicine. Evidence of this is the fact that four out of five cans distributed by European countries have not yet been used, according to a study by The Guardian newspaper earlier this week. But why did the AstraZeneca vaccine raise so many doubts?
First, there is the perception that the drug developed by AstraZeneca in partnership with Oxford University is less effective than the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine. Add to this the doubts about vaccinating people over 65 years of age caused by the lack of data on vaccination in this age group. This lack of information has led several countries – a group that includes Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Austria, Sweden, Italy, and the Netherlands – to recommend the Pfizer vaccine, the only alternative, to people over 65 in this country time.
Germany is one of the countries where this distrust is most clearly noticeable. Virtually a month after the vaccine arrives, there are still more than a million doses stored in warehouses waiting for people to be available for vaccination. According to the New York Times, according to the Robert Koch Institute, a German health authority, only 270,986 doses of a 1.45 million broadcast were administered in Germany.
At a time when it is important to vaccinate as many people as possible in the shortest possible time, the federal government is trying to make the population aware of the need to use the doses available. “Personally, I have little understanding that I am not prepared to use a vaccine at the expense of the other,” said Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a video conference.
Steinmeier recalled in his criticism that this is “a problem of the first world”, not “for those who are still waiting for the first vaccination and for people in countries who do not hope to receive a single dose this year”.
Germany changes recommendation
It will be more difficult to change the perception of the vaccine if it is recommended that the most influential person in the country, Chancellor Angela Merkel, not be vaccinated with the drug AstraZeneca because of exceeding the age limit – Merkel is 66 years old. But that could change soon.
This Saturday, the head of the Standing Vaccination Commission in Germany, Thomas Mertens, said that the organism would change the recommendation that restricts the use of the vaccine. In an interview with German TV station ZDF quoted by Lusa, Mertens denies that the vaccine has ever been questioned. “We have never criticized the vaccine, we have only criticized the fact that there is not enough data on its effectiveness in people over 65. The vaccine is good and the new data now allow us to add to its value, ”the official said.
Let’s go back to the first concern: effectiveness. If we look at the results of clinical trials, we can see a difference between the two vaccines that have already received European approval. While Pfizer’s can achieve 95% efficacy, AstraZeneca’s results indicate efficacy between 62% and 90%, depending on the dosage regimen used.
The truth, however, is that AstraZeneca showed 94% effectiveness in reducing cases of serious infections requiring hospitalization in a study that analyzed data from 5.4 million Scottish residents who were vaccinated with doses of the two vaccines require. A higher score than the Pfizer vaccine with an 85% success rate.
Angela Merkel wanted to remember this during one of the many calls to the German people to accelerate the vaccination rate. “All the authorities tell us that this vaccine is safe,” said the Chancellor in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Macron doubted its effectiveness
This mistrust does not only apply to Germany. In France too, policymakers are trying to get AstraZeneca cans to priority groups. In France, however, it was the president himself who questioned the vaccine’s effectiveness in the elderly population. Emmanuel Macron said in early January that the AstraZeneca drug was “virtually ineffective” in people over 65. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock was more reluctant to recommend people “listen to scientists”.
However, the study in Scotland, which showed the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing the most serious cases, caused French vaccination plan coordinator Alain Fischer to take a different view than the President’s. “If these results are confirmed, this is excellent news as it could suggest that the vaccine could be recommended for people between 65 and 74 years of age,” he said, quoted by Politico.
This Thursday, it was the French President himself who said he would receive the AstraZeneca vaccine if the opportunity arose. “The latest scientific studies have shown the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine. It’s my turn [de ser vacinado] it will arrive, but i have time. If this is the vaccine that is offered to me, then of course I will accept it, ”said the President.
As in Germany, it is now expected that the drug can be given to people over 65 who belong to the priority groups, which would potentially speed up vaccination schedules.