Data back use of AZ and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines in older people

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in reducing COVID-19 infections among older people, according to an emerging study data.

Data came from Public Health England, which has submitted findings of a real-world study for peer review.

The article compares the rate of vaccination in symptomatic people aged over 70 years of age who test positive for COVID-19, compared to those who test negative.

It compares the rate of hospitalisation in confirmed COVID-19 cases aged over 80 who were vaccinated more than 14 days before testing positive, compared to unvaccinated cases.

The study also compares the rate of deaths in confirmed COVID-19 cases aged over 80 who were vaccinated with Pfizer vaccine more than 14 days before testing positive, compared to unvaccinated cases.

Findings show that protection against symptomatic COVID, four weeks after the first dose, ranged from between 57-61% for one dose of the Pfizer shot and 60-73% from the AZ vaccine.

In the over 80s, data suggest that a single dose of either vaccine is more than 80% effective at preventing hospitalisation, around 3 to 4 weeks after the jab.

There is also evidence for the Pfizer vaccine, which suggests it leads to an 83% reduction in deaths from COVID-19.

The data could have implications for countries that have decided not to recommend or approve the AZ vaccine for use in older people.

Many EU countries in the EU have restricted use of the AZ vaccine in older people, citing a lack of evidence in the first studies used for approval as these included a high proportion of younger people for ethical reasons.

The vaccine was further undermined by a press report in the German economic newspaper Handelsblatt, which wrongly reported the AZ vaccine was only effective in 8% of the elderly.

This was attributed to a single anonymous government source and has not been supported by any trial data.

An article published by the British Medical Journal last month examined the reasons for the erroneous reporting and uncovered the draft recommendations from German health officials that led to the discredited Handelsblatt story.

UK health leaders suggested the data could lead to a rethink of recommendations about the Oxford vaccine in Germany and other European countries.

Andrew Pollard, professor of paediatric infection and immunity at Oxford Vaccine Group, told BBC Radio: “I think that the scientific committees in each of these countries will be doing exactly that over the days ahead.

“The strength of evidence that we’re now seeing all of that is being accessed by scientific committees in different countries, and I’m sure will help support their decision-making.”

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