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Scientists’ fury at ‘incorrect’ claim that Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is only 8% effective

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Scientists have slammed the ‘completely incorrect’ claim the Oxford/AstraZeneca  coronavirus vaccine is only eight per cent effective in over-65s.

The figure was published by a German newspaper, alleging it had been ‘confirmed’ by ‘multiple’ unnamed senior sources in the country’s Government.

But Oxford University has rubbished the report, saying there was ‘no basis’ for the allegation, and that their data has already been ‘released transparently’.

And scientists added they had ‘no idea’ where the figure has come from, adding that it was not proved by research on the vaccine.

It comes amid a bitter row between the European Union and AstraZeneca over jab deliveries, with the company saying it won’t be able to meet a previous order.

In response, the trade bloc – which is yet to approve the vaccine –  has threatened to halt exports of Covid-19 shots, including millions of doses bound for Britain.

EU health chiefs have ordered drug companies to tell them when they are exporting to countries outside the union – meaning American giant Pfizer will need to let Eurocrats know when it tries to send doses to the UK.

A Conservative MP today suggested the off-the-record briefing against AstraZeneca may be linked to the company saying it won’t be able to meet orders.

‘Either way it is dangerous and irresponsible and only helps the anti-vaccine movement,’ they said. 

Britain has ordered more than 100million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, which is being administered to top priority groups alongside the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Ministers are aiming to vaccinate 15million of the most vulnerable by mid-February. This includes the over-70s, vulnerable, care home residents and NHS staff. 

Oxford University and AstraZeneca have hit back against claims their vaccine is only eight per cent effective, saying this is ‘completely incorrect’

The low effectiveness figure was published by Handelsblatt, a business newspaper based in Dusseldorf.

‘According to information given to Handelsblatt from coalition circles, the federal Government only expects an effectiveness of eight per cent among the over-65s,’ wrote reporter Gregor Waschinski.

But Oxford University, AstraZeneca and scientists have today lined up to rubbish the claims as ‘completely incorrect’.

Professor Adam Finn, a paediatrician at the University of Bristol who was not involved in developing the jab, said he had ‘no idea’ where the eight per cent had come from.

‘Elderly people were recruited to the UK phase 3 relatively late and were relatively well shielded, so there were few cases of Covid-19 that had occurred at the time of submission of data to MHRA for approval,’ he said.

‘There may have been more by the time of EMA submission. No idea where the eight per cent figure comes from.’

Conservative MP Damian Collins today suggested the report could be linked to AstraZeneca saying it would not be able to make orders.

‘I wonder if this off the record briefing against the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine in Germany has anything to do with this?,’ he wrote, adding a link to a story where the EU dismisses the drug company’s reasons for cutting supply as ‘unacceptable’.

‘Either way, it is dangerous and irresponsible and only helps the anti-vaccine movement.’

A spokesman for AstraZeneca has rubbished the claims, saying: ‘Reports that the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine efficacy is as low as eight per cent in adults over 65 years are completely incorrect. 

‘In the UK, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) supported use in this population and MHRA 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 per cent of older adults generating spike-specific antibodies after the second dose.’

An Oxford University spokesman added: ‘There is no basis for the claims of very low efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which have been circulating in the media. 

‘The results of the clinical trials have already been published transparently in 5 peer-reviewed scientific publications showing similar immune responses in younger and older adults and a good safety profile, and high efficacy in younger adults. 

‘Furthermore, the preliminary efficacy data in older adults supports the importance of this vaccine for use in this population.’

The Department of Health has declined to comment on the reports. 

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