Our jab DOES work! Boris Johnson and UK health chiefs insist AstraZeneca vaccine IS effective for ALL age groups after Germany claims jab should not be used on over-65s yet due to 'insufficient testing data'

  • German panel of scientists is not recommending Oxford jab for over-65s because of insufficient testing data
  • It did not support widely-debunked claim that the AstraZeneca jab is only 8 per cent effective on seniors
  • But decision will add to tensions amid EU row with AstraZeneca over vaccine supplies that it has ordered Boris Johnson and UK health chief insisted the AstraZeneca vaccine works for all age groups today after German scientists said they will not recommend it for over-65s because they believe there is not yet enough evidence.  

    The PM and Public Health England struck a bullish note after a Berlin commission said there was 'insufficient data to assess the efficacy of the vaccine for persons aged 65 years and older'. 

    British regulators, by contrast, have approved the jab for all age groups - with AstraZeneca pointing to data published in a medical journal showing that 100 per cent of older adults generated antibodies in trials.

    Germany's stance comes amid an angry row between the EU and AstraZeneca over vaccine supplies, with the bloc lagging far behind Britain in immunising its population against Covid-19. 

    Although it is possible the position could change with more evidence, it raises the prospect of splits between the UK and EU on what vaccines are regarded as effective - with speculation that in the future travel to some destinations could be contingent on having been inoculated.     

    On a visit to Scotland this afternoon, Mr Johnson said he was not worried about the news from Germany. 'No, because the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) our own authorities have made it very clear that they think the Oxford-AstraZeneca is very good and efficacious and gives a high degree of protection after just one does and even more after two doses,' he said.

    The PM said the MHRA concluded the vaccine is 'effective across all age groups' and 'provides a good immune response across all age groups'. He added on the German conclusions: 'So I don't agree with that.'

    Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at PHE, said there had been 'too few cases' of coronavirus in older people in Phase 3 clinical trial to determine efficacy in this age group, but other data on immune response had been 'reassuring'.  

    AstraZeneca said: 'The latest analyses of clinical trial data for the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine support efficacy in the over 65 years age group.'  

    The German panel did not endorse the sensational claim published by German media on Monday that the jab is only eight per cent effective among over-65s, a theory debunked by the manufacturers and the German health ministry. 

    Instead, it said there was not enough data to make a decision either way - after AstraZeneca's boss said the 'very ethical' Oxford scientists had slowed down trials on older people until the vaccine was proved to be safe.   

    It remains to be seen whether the European Medicines Agency will make a similar determination on Friday, after EMA chief Emer Cooke said on Tuesday that the body could decide to split hairs between age groups.  

    Meanwhile, the brutal row over stocks is raging, with the EU demanding AstraZeneca make up for delays by supplying doses from its UK factories. Mr Johnson said he expects the British-Swedish firm to continue providing two million doses a week to the UK.

    How did the UK end up as one of the world's leading countries on the vaccine roll-out?

    The UK is one of the world's leading countries when it comes to the speed of the roll-out of its coronavirus vaccination programme - a fact made all the more impressive given where the nation started when the pandemic hit early last year. 

    At that point the country had just one vaccine manufacturing site - a facility in Liverpool which made flu jabs.

    But the Government quickly set up a vaccine task force in April to make sure the UK was well-positioned to benefit from medical breakthroughs.

    The experts appointed to the task force reportedly recommended seven projects for investment within its first two weeks, according to The Times. 

    Advance purchase orders were hammered out by the task force with suppliers despite the fact there were no guarantees that any of the vaccines would work or that they would be signed off by regulators.  

    That early work meant the UK was in pole position to receive the jabs, if and when they were shown to be effective and safe. 

    The task force's strategy means two companies have been relied upon to do much of the heavy lifting during the UK's vaccine roll-out: Pfizer and AstraZeneca. 

    The UK ordered 40 million doses from the former and 100 million doses from the latter. 

    Agreements are also in place with a handful of other would-be suppliers should their products get the green light. 

    The speed with which the UK moved on vaccines was perhaps best illustrated this week when Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of AstraZeneca, revealed the deal with Britain was agreed three months before the EU's. 

    The UK's supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine is made at sites in Oxford and Staffordshire before it is put into vials at a facility in Wrexham, while the Pfizer jab is made in Belgium.

    Every new batch of vaccine in the UK has to be safety tested by the National Institute of Biological Standards and Control in Hertfordshire before it can be sent for delivery. 

    This process takes about four days and once each batch has been rubber-stamped it is taken to secure Government warehouses where the NHS takes over the process and decides where the doses will be sent.

    The physical roll-out of the vaccine is headquartered from an NHS office in London, with doses sent to more than 1,400 vaccine sites across the country.

    It is easily the biggest vaccination drive in the history of the health service and many believe it will become an annual programme.   Dr Ramsay said: 'Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are safe and provide high levels of protection against Covid-19, particularly against severe disease.

    'There were too few cases in older people in the AstraZeneca trials to observe precise levels of protection in this group, but data on immune responses were very reassuring.

    'The risk of severe disease and death increase exponentially with age – the priority is to vaccinate as many vulnerable people as possible with either vaccine, to protect more people and save more lives.' 

    Boris Johnson is shown the Lighthouse Laboratory, used for processing PCR samples for coronavirus, during a visit to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus in Glasgow today

    Boris Johnson is shown the Lighthouse Laboratory, used for processing PCR samples for coronavirus, during a visit to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus in Glasgow today

    Boris Johnson met armed forces personnel at a youth centre in Castlemilk, Glasgow today, as he thanked people for their efforts on the coronavirus response

    Boris Johnson met armed forces personnel at a youth centre in Castlemilk, Glasgow today, as he thanked people for their efforts on the coronavirus response

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