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The effectiveness of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for people over 65 years of age questioned by European countries amid late delivery

French and Swedish health officials on Tuesday announced that they are not recommending AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 65 and over, going against recommendations of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

According to the French High Authority for Health (HAS) and the Swedish Public Health Agency (FHM), the Swedish-British pharmaceutical laboratory AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, the developers of this vaccine, have not yet provided data on patients in this age group.

“These data will arrive in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we recommend its use in those under 65,” declared Tuesday the president of HAS, Dominique Le Guludec.

France and Sweden join a growing group of European countries that have taken similar positions since German experts last week expressed concerns about the effectiveness of this vaccine in the elderly.

The European Commission granted conditional marketing authorization for AstraZeneca’s vaccine last Friday, following a positive scientific recommendation issued the same day by the EMA.

“There are not yet enough results in participants” over 55 years of age to calculate the vaccine’s effectiveness on this group, but “protection is expected because an immune response has been identified,” the EMA, believing that “the vaccine could be used in the elderly”.

It is the third vaccine against the new coronavirus authorized in the European Union after those of Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna were given their green light in late December and early January.

The EU clashed with AstraZeneca at the end of January after the latter announced that it could deliver far fewer doses than promised for the first quarter.

According to the contract signed last August, the European Commission has placed an order for 300 million doses and an option for 100 million more. The pharmaceutical giant initially promised to deliver 80 million doses in the first quarter, but reduced this volume to 40 million due to a disruption of its European supply chains.

Yet the UK, the country with the highest death toll from COVID-19 in Europe (108,013 as of Tuesday), has meanwhile reported no supply shortages, which has raised suspicions from Brussels. according to which doses of vaccines produced in the EU would be transported across the Channel.

According to European media, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot explained that the contract with the British authorities was concluded in June 2020, three months before the contract with the EU. Moreover, they added, London had reportedly stipulated that doses from the UK supply chain would go to the UK first.

But under the contract with the EU, AstraZeneca must use four factories to ensure its production: two in the EU and two in the UK. “The two British factories are part of the contract and must provide the planned doses”, underlined the European Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides.

The request was rejected by London, which insisted British factories could only export vaccines to other countries after delivering 100 million doses to the local population, the British daily reported last week. The Media, citing government sources.

In retaliation, the European Commission published the contract with AstraZeneca last Friday and has meanwhile launched a transparency measure to regulate vaccine exports from the union.

Producers of the other two EU-approved vaccines also announced delays in deliveries to the EU for the first quarter, which plunged into disarray the European vaccine campaign, already behind schedule compared to the UK and United States.

Any vaccine against the new coronavirus is welcome in the EU, as the bloc faces delivery difficulties, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday, referring to Russian and Chinese vaccines.

To date, 237 vaccine candidates are still under development around the world – including 63 in clinical trials – in countries such as Germany, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. , according to information released on Jan. 29 by the World Health Organization (WHO).

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