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BSI response to reports from Germany on recommendations for AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine use

28 January 2021

Today, media reports from Germany suggest that their vaccine committee have recommended that the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine should only be given to people aged under 65. The AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine was approved for use in the UK for all age groups in December 2020 following the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). In response, the British Society for Immunology has released the following statement.

Dr Doug Brown, Chief Executive of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“We are living through an unprecedented pandemic situation both in the UK and globally where Governments need to make important policy decisions in the face of fast-moving situations where our knowledge of the underlying science is still evolving. We should not be surprised that this sometimes results in Governments making different decisions from each other.

“The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) will have carefully scrutinised the evidence on this COVID-19 vaccine before making their recommendation. As noted in their original report, there is “limited information available on efficacy in participants aged 65 or over” for the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in the phase 3 trial. This reflects a need for more data to be gathered and published on the effectiveness of the vaccine in this age group but there is no data so far to indicate that the vaccine isn’t effective in people over the age of 65. It should also be noted that in all published reports, the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine shows a good safety profile. 

“Since the start of the year, the UK has faced an extremely challenging situation with high levels of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in our communities together with the emergence of the new, more transmissible variant resulting extra pressure on healthcare services. Vaccination is our only way out of this pandemic and we are incredibly fortunate to have had several vaccines developed in less than a year. But we need the government and authorities to continue to generate and monitor data during the vaccine rollout so that they can make real time decisions on how to optimise the vaccination strategy to ensure the greatest benefit to public health.”