SHARE
COPY LINK

VACCINE

Update: German Health Ministry denies reports that AstraZeneca jab is less effective on elderly

Germany's health ministry on Tuesday joined AstraZeneca in rubbishing reports quoting unnamed government sources that claimed the British-Swedish company's Covid-19 vaccine showed little efficacy for people above 65.

Update: German Health Ministry denies reports that AstraZeneca jab is less effective on elderly
Photo: DPA

Handelsblatt economic daily had reported Monday that Berlin had estimated the efficacy of the jab among over-65s was just eight percent, citing unnamed sources.

Separately, Bild daily quoted anonymous sources saying that that Berlin did not expect the vaccine – developed with Oxford University and set to get the green light from the EU this week – would receive a licence for use in the elderly. It quoted an efficacy rate of “less than 10 percent”.

But Germany's Health Ministry said Tuesday it “appears that two things have been mixed up in the reports.”

“Around eight percent of the volunteers in AstraZeneca's efficacy studies were around 56 and 69 years old and three to four percent are above 70 years old,” said the Ministry.

“However, this does not mean that it is effective only in eight percent of older people,” it added.

The Health Ministry added that European regulator EMA will evaluate the effectiveness of the vaccine.

 “It has been known since the autumn that fewer older people were involved in AstraZeneca's first studies than in other manufacturers',” it said.

'Completely incorrect'

The company had also rejected the German media reports as erroneous.

“Reports that the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine efficacy is as low as eight percent in adults over 65 years are completely incorrect,” the firm said in a statement late Monday.

“In November, we published data in The Lancet demonstrating that older adults showed strong immune responses to the vaccine, with 100 percent of older adults generating spike-specific antibodies after the second dose,” it added.

The UK became the first country to approve the two-shot vaccine on December 30th and did not impose an upper age limit. It has so far been vaccinating the elderly and healthcare workers for its immunisation campaign.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn distanced himself from the media reports, calling them “speculative”. He told broadcaster ZDF that he wanted to wait until data from the studies had been evaluated.

Based on scientific findings, he said, a decision would be made next week “as to which age groups would be vaccinated first with this vaccine”.

READ ALSO: How long might it take to get a coronavirus vaccination in Germany?

The reports came as the EU issued an angry warning to AstraZeneca Monday over its unexpected delay in delivering millions of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to the bloc.

Last Friday, the pharma giant said it would not meet its contractual delivery commitments to the European Union because of unexplained “reduced yields” in its European supply chain.

The European Union has currently authorised two vaccines for widespread distribution, manufactured by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna.

It was set to add the AstraZeneca vaccine to that list this week, on the understanding that it would be already on hand and available for immediate roll-out.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

COVID-19

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

SHOW COMMENTS