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AstraZeneca says reports of 8% coronavirus vaccine efficacy in seniors are ‘incorrect’

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British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is refuting German media reports claiming its coronavirus vaccine has an eight per cent efficacy rate in seniors as “completely incorrect.”

“Reports that the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine efficacy is as low as 8 per cent in adults over 65 years are completely incorrect,” a spokesperson from AstraZeneca said in an emailed statement to Global News.

The pharmaceutical giant cited data published in the Lancet in November of 2020, saying one of their clinical trials found 100 per cent of older adults generated “spike-specific antibodies” after the second dose.

Read more: U.K. jumps ahead in global COVID-19 vaccine race, rolls out 1st AstraZeneca shots

German reports from local papers Handelsblatt and Bild emerged on Monday, alleging AstraZeneca’s vaccine had an efficacy as low as eight per cent in adults aged 65 and older, raising doubts that the German government would approve the product for that age demographic.

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The Government of Canada puts adults over 60 at the top of its list of those “at risk of more severe disease or outcomes,” followed by those with chronic medical health conditions, immunocompromised and people living with obesity.

The news comes as the European Union mounts criticism against AstraZeneca, accusing the pharmaceutical company of providing an “insufficient” explanation for its COVID-19 vaccine delivery reduction after two negotiating sessions that ended Monday.

The EU has an agreement with AstraZeneca for 300 million doses and the option to purchase up to 100 million more. However, the pharmaceutical company warned Friday that vaccine supplies would be “lower than originally anticipated” due to reduced production at its manufacturing site, shrinking the EU’s first shipment from 80 million doses to 31 million doses.

Bloc health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the EU would take “any action required to protect its citizens and its rights,” adding that “vaccine developers have societal and contractual responsibilities they need to uphold.”

The EU is expected to authorize the vaccine for use on Friday, and threatened stringent export controls if the pharmaceutical company fell short on its delivery promises.

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“We, as the EU, must be able to know whether and what vaccines are being exported from the EU,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

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“Only that way can we understand whether our EU contracts with the producers are being served fairly. An obligation to get approval for vaccine exports on the EU level makes sense.”

AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been authorized for emergency use in the U.K., as well as Argentina, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico and Morocco.

It has yet to be approved in Canada, with the federal government saying that they were still waiting on additional data from the vaccine developers in December.

Dominic LeBlanc, Canada’s Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, said on Jan. 10 he was “hopeful” that Health Canada would approve AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the coming weeks, adding that having more vaccine options could help Canada “hedge” against vaccine delays caused by Pfizer-BioNtech’s shipment pause.

“We’re really hopeful that in the coming weeks, other vaccines may be approved by Health Canada as safe for use: AstraZeneca, perhaps Johnson & Johnson thereafter,” he said.

— With files from the Associated Press