Germany’s health ministry said it cannot confirm local media reports that the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford university is less effective in people over 65 years old and suggested the newspapers had muddled statistics.
“At first glance it seems that the [newspaper] reports have mixed up two things: about 8 per cent of those tested in the AstraZeneca efficacy study were between 56 and 69 [years old], only 3-4 per cent over 70 (MHRA Approval Public Assessment Report),” the ministry said in a statement released on Tuesday. “But one cannot deduce an efficacy of only 8 per cent with older people from that.”
It added: “Moreover, the [European Medicines Agency] is currently evaluating the studies. It has been known since the autumn that in the first studies that AstraZeneca submitted fewer older people took part than in the studies of other producers.”
The health ministry said it expects the European medical regulator to publish its evaluation on Friday.
Reports in Germany’s Handelsblatt and Bild suggested the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has an efficacy rate of less than 10 per cent for those over 65.
AstraZeneca said reports that its vaccine efficacy was as low as 8 per cent in adults more than 65 years old were “completely incorrect”, pointing to data published in November in The Lancet which demonstrated “that older adults showed strong immune responses to the vaccine, with 100 per cent of older adults generating spike-specific antibodies after the second dose”.
An Oxford university spokesperson said there was “no basis for the claims of very low efficacy” of the vaccine.
“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.”