Germany’s vaccine commission said the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine should not be given to people older than 65 years, amid a bitter dispute between the European Union and the drugmaker over delayed supplies
.The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) at Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country’s main public health authority, found there is insufficient data on the effectiveness of the vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, for this age group, according to a statement from the interior ministry on Thursday.”Due to the small number of study participants in the age group ≥65 years, no conclusion can be made regarding efficacy and safety in the elderly.
This vaccine is therefore currently recommended by STIKO only for persons aged 18-64 years,” the panel said in its recommendation.Thursday’s announcement by the German Interior Ministry came amid an ongoing dispute between the European Union and AstraZeneca over delays to the delivery of its coronavirus vaccine to the bloc.
AstraZeneca has said it can’t deliver as many doses as the EU expected, citing production challenges. But the European Commission, which ordered the vaccine on behalf of EU member states, says this is unacceptable, and the drugmaker must find a way to increase supply.
The United Kingdom, whose regulator approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine nearly a month ago, has been administering doses to people older than 65.In its report, the regulator, the MHRA, said there was “limited information available on efficacy in participants aged 65 or over, although there is nothing to suggest lack of protection.
“The EU has ordered 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine — which could be approved for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as soon as Friday — with an option to purchase an additional 100 million doses.An AstraZeneca spokesperson said it awaited a regulatory decision by the EMA soon. “Reports that the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine efficacy is low in adults over 65 years is not an accurate reflection of the totality of the data,” the spokesperson said.
“The latest analyses support efficacy in this age group, which we expect to be published by the EMA in the coming days. The most recent Lancet publication has demonstrated that older adults showed strong immune responses to the vaccine, with 100% of older adults generating spike-specific antibodies after the second dose.
“AstraZeneca’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, said in an interview with Italy’s la Repubblica newspaper Tuesday that “the issue with the elderly data is not so much whether it works or not. It’s that we have today a limited amount of data in the older population.”Soriot said this was because the Oxford scientists running the vaccine trials did not want to recruit older people until they had “accumulated a lot of safety data” for those aged 18 to 55.
“Essentially, because Oxford started vaccinating older people later, we don’t have a huge number of older people who have been vaccinated. So that’s what the debate is,” he said. “But we have strong data showing very strong antibody production against the virus in the elderly, similar to what we see in younger people. It’s possible that some countries, out of caution, will use our vaccine for the younger group.”