Friday 29 January 2021 3:30 pm

EU approves Astrazeneca vaccine for all over-18s

The EU drugs regulator has approved the use of the Astrazeneca Covid vaccine for all people over the age of 18.

The green light from the European Medicines Agency means Astrazeneca vaccine is the third to be approved by the EU, after those developed by Pfizer/Biontech and Moderna.

The move follows an increasingly bitter dispute between the Anglo-Swedish firm and the EU over claims it has broken its vaccine delivery commitments to the bloc.

Astrazeneca last week said it would cut back its original order pledge to the EU by 60 per cent following production issues at its European plants.

The European Commission subsequently published its contract with the drugmaker this morning in an effort to highlight what it claims was a breach of the terms on the behalf of Astrazeneca.

However, Astrazeneca noted that the contract only obliged the company to utilise its “best efforts” to fulfil its vaccine supplies, and did not hold it to supplying any particular number of doses.

But news of the EU approval failed to offset investors’ dismay over the ongoing dispute, with shares down 0.9 per cent at 7,578p.

It comes after German health authorities yesterday issued a draft recommendation that the Astrazeneca coronavirus vaccine should not be used in over-65s.

A statement by the Standing Vaccine Commission at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) — Germany’s main public health body — said there was “insufficient data currently available to ascertain how effective the vaccination is above 65 years.”

It recommended that the vaccine only be used on people between the ages of 18 and 64.

The move was slammed by British officials as political peacocking, coming days after incorrect reports by local German media that the jab was only eight per cent effective among over-65s.

In November, Cambridge-based Astrazeneca published data in leading medical journal 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”.

In an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica earlier this week, chief executive Pascal Soriot, explained that the research team started vaccinating older people later so it did not have “a huge number of older people that had been vaccinated”. 

“But we have strong data showing very strong antibody production against the virus in the elderly, similar to what we see in younger people.” He added that it was possible that some countries might use the vaccine just for younger people “out of caution”.