Claims the Oxford vaccine doesn’t work for over-65s are false - here’s where the rumour started

By Ethan Shone
Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 12:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 12:29 pm
Claims the Oxford vaccine doesn’t work for over-65s are false - here’s where the rumour started (Photo: Shutterstock)

Claims that the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is not effective for people over the age of 65 are inaccurate, and originated from a mistake in a German news report.

The vaccine has been fully tested and was found to be efficient for people of all age groups, prior to being accepted by regulators late last year.

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Yesterday (26 Jan), German newspaper, Handelsblatt, printed the false claim that the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is only eight per cent effective in people over the age of 65. The article supposedly cited German government officials.

‘Completely incorrect’

Elsewhere in the German press, the tabloid Bild published a report claiming that the vaccine is unlikely to be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for use on over-65s.

AstraZeneca immediately refuted the falsehoods about the vaccine’s effectiveness in older people, describing the articles in the German press as “completely incorrect.”

In a statement, AstraZeneca said: “Reports that the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine efficacy is as low as 8% in adults over 65 years are completely incorrect. In the UK, the JCVI supported use in this population and MHRA included this group without dose adjustment in the authorisation for emergency supply.

“In November we published data in The Lancet demonstrating that older adults showed strong immune responses to the vaccine, with 100 er cent of older adults generating spike-specific antibodies after the second dose.”

Speaking to Politico’s Playbook, a UK government official said: “The efficacy claims circulating in the German media are unsubstantiated and incorrect.”

Where did the mistaken claim come from?

Some experts pointed out that the proportion of people over the age of 65 who took part in the study cited by the German press was eight per cent.

This seems to have been the source of the confusion, as the German Health Ministry later denied the report in Handelsblatt, saying that eight per cent referred to the number of people in the study between 56 and 69 years old, according to Politico’s Alex Wickham.