Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine approved across EU for all adults

29 January 2021, 15:22 | Updated: 29 January 2021, 15:56

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been given approval in the European Union
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been given approval in the European Union. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for use in all adults across the EU.

AstraZeneca's drug becomes the third Covid-19 vaccine to be given the green light by the European Union's vaccine regulator - following ones made by Pfizer and Moderna.

The EMA licensed the jab for use in over-18s, though concerns were raised earlier in the week that insufficient data exists to prove its efficacy in older people.

Europe's vaccine regulator said in a statement: "EMA has recommended granting a conditional marketing authorisation for Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 in people from 18 years of age.

"This is the third Covid-19 vaccine that EMA has recommended for authorisation."

The decision needs final approval from the European Commission, however that process has happened quickly with other vaccines.

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Emer Cooke, the executive director of the agency, said: "With this third positive opinion, we have further expanded the arsenal of vaccines available to EU and EEA member states to combat the pandemic and protect their citizens.

"As in previous cases, the CHMP has rigorously evaluated this vaccine, and the scientific basis of our work underpins our firm commitment to safeguard the health of EU citizens.”

Many European countries have been struggling to inoculate people as quickly as Britain, Israel, the US and elsewhere, and it has been hoped the AstraZeneca jab would help speed things up.

On top of the recent news that the drugmaker would supply fewer doses in an initial batch, there were concerns that an age restriction would further hamper Europe's vaccination programme.

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Some doctors feared restricting the vaccine's use in older people might worsen the pandemic's impact, since older people have suffered more severe disease and died at a higher rate with Covid-19.

But in its decision on Friday, the European agency said the AstraZeneca vaccine, developed with Oxford University, would be recommended for use in all adults.

While the AstraZeneca vaccine has been authorised for all adults in other countries, only 12 per cent of the participants in its research were over 55 and they were enrolled later, so there has not been enough time to get results.

A large trial, published last month, showed the vaccine was about 70 per cent effective in preventing people from getting sick with coronavirus, although it is unknown whether the shot stops disease transmission.

The EMA said: "There are not yet enough results in older participants (over 55 years old) to provide a figure for how well the vaccine will work in this group."

But, it added, "protection is expected, given that an immune response is seen in this age group and based on experience with other vaccines".

"EMA's scientific experts considered that the vaccine can be used in older adults," the agency said.

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