German media report stirs questions about AstraZeneca vaccine efficacy

Jan. 26, 2021

Earlier this week, Germany media reported that the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, currently being evaluated by the European Medicines Agency, faced a stumbling block because it lacked efficacy in people over 65.

Reports in Germany’s Handelsblatt and Bild newspapers on Monday suggested that the experimental vaccine has an efficacy rate of less than 10 percent for those over 65. The reports suggested that German government officials fear that the AstraZeneca vaccine may not be approved by European Union authorities for use in those over 65.

A statement by the German health ministry later suggested that the media reports had mixed up the efficacy rate for people over 65 with the number of seniors involved in AstraZeneca’s trials. About 8 percent of those tested in the AstraZeneca efficacy study were between 56 and 69 years old, while only 3-4 percent were over 70. According to reporting from the Guardian, the German government has voiced concerns about the fact that fewer seniors were included in the trials run by AstraZeneca than the trials of other manufacturers.

AstraZeneca has refuted the media claims. According to a spokesperson,“Reports that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine efficacy is as low as 8% in adults over 65 years are completely incorrect." "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.’”

Handelsblatt has stood by its reporting, publishing another article that quotes a high-ranking official from Germany's Federal Ministry of Health as saying, "It is impossible to mix up the numbers."

EMA’s analysis of AstraZeneca’s trial data is ongoing, with a decision expected before the end of the month.