German government denies ‘baseless’ reports Oxford jab is less effective among over 65s

26 January 2021, 12:06 | Updated: 26 January 2021, 13:51

A spokesman for AstraZeneca called the reports “completely incorrect”
A spokesman for AstraZeneca called the reports “completely incorrect”. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Germany has rejected reports in the country’s media that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine may only be 8% effective in over-65s.

The German health ministry said on Tuesday there is no data to support the suggestion that efficacy is so low in older people.

It added that there may have been confusion in how the data was reported.

The ministry said it appeared the 8% actually referred to the proportion of subjects in the AstraZeneca efficacy study who were between 56 and 69 years of age.

"One cannot deduce an efficacy of only 8% in older people", the ministry said.

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It added it expects the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to publish its evaluation on the vaccine on Friday.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca called the reports “completely incorrect” after they emerged in German media on Monday evening.

He said: "Reports that the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine efficacy is as low as 8% in adults over 65 years are completely incorrect.

"In the UK, the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) supported use in this population and MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) included this group without dose adjustment in the authorisation for emergency supply.

"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."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said on Tuesday: "Oxford has come out and said there is no basis for that allegation and AstraZeneca said it was completely incorrect.

"I believe you will have seen the German health ministry have denied these reports and confirmed there is no data to substantiate this claim."

Work published in November included findings for 160 people aged 56 to 69 years and 240 people aged 70 years and older.

This found that all age groups, including older people, had an immune response to the vaccine after two doses.

In December, a Phase 3 Lancet study from AstraZeneca and Oxford University said older age groups had been recruited later into the study so "efficacy data in these cohorts are currently limited by the small number of cases, but additional data will be available in future analyses".

In that particular analysis, only 12% of people were aged over 55.

It is understood that regulators have received more data since then.