Top virologist questions 'strange' German regulators advising against AstraZeneca

28 January 2021, 18:55 | Updated: 28 January 2021, 19:19

By Fiona Jones

Top virologist Dr Chris Smith reacts to the "terrible mistake" of German vaccine regulators advising that over-65s should not take the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Germany's vaccines regulator has advised that over-65s should not take the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid jab over concerns about its efficacy in older people.

AstraZeneca does not yet have approval from the European Union to rollout its vaccine but is expected to receive it by the end of this week.

Top virologist and host of podcast Naked Scientists Dr Chris Smith responded to the announcement on Eddie Mair's show.

He said: "It hasn't been a good week for the AstraZeneca vaccine because we've got two major German publications, Handelsblatt and Bild, who put out headlines that this vaccine is only 8% effective in people over a certain age.

"Actually, it turned out they'd made a terrible mistake in making that publication and putting that headline out because they were referring not to how effective the vaccine was in those people, but how many people were in the trial at that age.

"It was 8% of people that were in that certain age, but when you look at those 8% they actually responded very well."

Dr Chris Smith pointed out that the Oxford/AstraZeneca team published a paper in October in the Lancet, a medical journal, and in response to the German publications, AstraZeneca asked people to go back and read this, showing there is "good response across the age range."

"They do actually say by the time you've had your second dose, people of all ages make a good anti-body response 100% of the time," Dr Chris said.

"I'm not really sure where the reaction is coming from in regarding of this finding in Europe, it seems a slightly strange reaction to me and at a time when we have a pandemic and Europe is already facing criticism for being slow off the mark, it seems rather strange to me to be ruling out the use of a very available very quick to manufacture agent."

The EU has so far approved the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed the decision and argued it "provides a good immune response across all age groups".