AstraZeneca jab could be the reason why Britain is faring better than Europe, says vaccine boss

The AstraZeneca jab could be the reason why Britain is faring better than Europe when it comes to Covid, the vaccine company’s boss has said. 

As countries in the EU – including Germany, the Netherlands and Austria begin to reimpose lockdown restrictions, the UK appears to be coping with the return to relative normality. 

Pascal Soirot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, believes this could be due to the fact that so many older people were given the Oxford vaccine in Britain, whereas members of the EU banned the jab for its elderly populations. 

The EU’s medical regulator approved the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for all age groups in January.

But the rollout stalled in France, Germany and Italy when they recommended that it should not be used for people over 65, citing insufficient data on its efficacy for older people.

By March, they had U-turned on the policy, by which time the UK’s rollout had far surpassed their European counterparts with millions of doses of AstraZeneca going into people of all ages. 

This delay, according to Mr Soirot, could be the reason why restrictions are being tightened and hospitalisations are going up in Europe. 

He told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: "You have two dimensions to this immune response… one is the antibody response and two is the so called T-cell response. 

"And the antibody response is what drives the immediate reaction or defence of the body when when you’re attacked by the virus. 

"And the T-cell response takes a little longer to come in. But it’s actually more durable. It lasts longer. 

"And the body remembers that longer. So you see on to everybody’s focused on antibodies, but antibodies you see them decline over time."

On Monday, Germany saw the second biggest number of daily cases in the world with 49,467, with the UK third with 41,365.

There were 204 Covid deaths reported on Monday compared to the UK’s 45 and on Nov 14, there were 3,020 in intensive care with coronavirus compared to the UK’s 923. 

In March, the number in Germany was 200, and 1,813 in the UK, emphasising how mainland Europe is once again in the grip of another Covid storm. 

Europe’s fourth wave: new restrictions, state by state

Mr Soirot said: "What remains and is very important is this T-cell response. 

"And as soon as the virus attacks you, they wake up and they come to the rescue and the defend you and but it takes them a little while so you may be infected, but then they come to the rescue and you don’t get hospitalised and it’s really interesting when you look at the UK, the there was a big peak of infections, but not so many hospitalisations relative to Europe. 

"In the UK, this vaccine was used to vaccinate older people. Whereas in Europe initially people thought the vaccine doesn’t work in older people."

Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both publicly suggested the AstraZeneca jab was of no use to older people, with the French President calling it "quasi-ineffective".

Asked if that was a mistake by Europe, Mr Soirot said: "I’m not saying there was any mistake done by anybody. I’m just saying that there’s a lot of data that still need to be made available that we don’t have."

And pressed on the BBC if there could be a link between hospitalisation rates and the fact that AstraZeneca wasn’t used in older people meaning the T-cell response isn’t there, he said: What I’m saying is T-cells do matters, and in particular as it relates to the durability of the response, especially in older people, and this vaccine has been shown to stimulate T-cells to a higher degree in older people. 

"And so we haven’t seen many hospitalisations in the UK, a lot of infections, for sure, everybody talking about those. 

"But what matters is are you severely ill or not are you hospitalised or not? And we haven’t seen so many of these hospitalisations.

"There’s no proof of anything. We don’t know [if because AstraZeneca was used among older people in the UK instead of Pfizer or Moderna] but we need more data to analyse this and get the answer."

Germany is debating the possibility of introducing a general vaccine mandate next year amid warnings that it is facing a fifth wave of Covid cases.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *