Regulators in Belgium are the latest in Europe to advise against the administration of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine to older people due to a lack of data on its efficacy.
Frank Vandenbroucke, Belgium’s health minister, said the country’s top health council, an advisory body, had suggested that the jab should be given to people under 55 for the time being.
Vandenbroucke said Belgium was reviewing its vaccination strategy. The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine had been a key part of the government’s plan to prioritize vulnerable groups in the first months of this year.
Vandenbroucke said: “The high council of health says very clearly that the AstraZeneca vaccine is a very good vaccine for people between 18 and 55 years old.
“But it is also said that today we do not have enough data to say with certainty that it works so well in older people. If you are not sure, the advice is to start using the vaccine in people under 55 years of age.
“This is preliminary advice. We may have the necessary data in a few weeks. For the moment we are taking it safe. Of course, the AstraZeneca vaccines will arrive next week. We will have to make decisions ”.
The European Medicines Agency authorized the use of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine for all age groups over 18 last week, but a lack of data in older age groups has led to some caution among national advisory bodies in Europe. .
The Oxford / AstraZeneca study had included only a small number of people in the older age range in its phase 3 clinical trials as a precaution, given the speed with which the vaccine had been produced.
Only 6% of the trial participants were over 65 years old, 341 people received an injection of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and 319 received a placebo.
The Belgian decision echoes that of the authorities in France, Germany, Poland and Italy, where regulators authorized its use in younger groups, but ruled out or warned against its use among people 65 and older.
On Monday, France’s Haute Autorité de Santé recommended that the vaccine be administered to those under 65.
The standing vaccination committee of the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control agency, went further last week and said the vaccine should not be given to people over 65.
On Wednesday, the head of the Oxford Vaccine group, Andrew Pollard, said that older people in the UK should be confident that the vaccine is safe and that there is data showing a “strong immune response” in older people.
He said: “I think the first really important point is that the European Medicines Agency has approved the vaccine for use at all ages in every country in Europe. Our regulator, the MHRA, has approved for all ages and 25 other regulators in other parts of the world have also approved the vaccine for all ages.
“But individual countries have their own [joint committee on vaccination and immunisation equivalent] committees, and they have to see what vaccines they have available, what they do with the data, and what is best for their population. And that’s obviously up to them “
When asked about comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron, who described the Oxford / AstraZeneca coup as “almost ineffective” in an interview with The Guardian, Pollard expressed his bewilderment.
He said: “I don’t understand what the statement means. The point is that we have significantly less data on older adults, so people are less certain about the level of protection. But we have good immune responses in older adults, very similar to those of younger adults, the protection that we see is in exactly the same direction and other similar magnitudes. “
“I think we are confident that we will see good protection across all age groups, just as global regulators have taken that point of view.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism