The vaccine is the third COVID-19 vaccine to receive the green light from the European Medicines Agency, after those manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna.
The European Union’s medical regulator has cleared AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine for use in people 18 years and older across the bloc, amid criticism the EU is not acting fast enough to vaccinate its population.
On Friday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) cleared the vaccine for people aged 18 and over, a day after the German Vaccine Committee recommended that it be given only to people aged 18 to 64, fearing that there isn’t enough data to prove it works. in the elderly.
The shot is the third COVID-19 vaccine to receive the green light from the EMA, after those made by Pfizer and Moderna. Both were allowed for all adults. The decision requires final approval from the European Commission, a process that happened quickly with the other vaccines.
“There are not enough results in older participants yet [over 55 years old] to provide a figure for vaccine efficacy in this group, “the regulator said, but added that” protection is expected, given that an immune response is observed in this age group and based on the experience with other vaccines.
“Scientific experts from the EMA have estimated that the vaccine can be used in the elderly,” the agency said.
Many countries in the EU have struggled to vaccinate people as quickly as the UK, Israel, the US and elsewhere, and it has long been hoped that the AstraZeneca shot would help speed things up.
The approval comes amid a bitter dispute between the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker and Block after the company said it would provide the EU with fewer doses in the first three months of the year than initially planned, citing production problems at its manufacturing plant in Belgium.
The EU has invested heavily in the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to handle than some other vaccines, with orders for 300 million doses to be delivered after authorization and options for an additional 100 million doses.
This is especially critical given the bloc’s difficulties in rolling out vaccinations at a time when countries face an increase in cases in a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people in the 27-nation bloc.
While politicians blamed supply issues for the slow rollout, other factors, like heavy paperwork and poor planning, also played a role. Concerned about supplying the bloc, which is home to some 450 million people, Moderna has told countries like Italy and Denmark the company will deliver fewer vaccines than initially planned.
Jens Spahn, Germany’s Health Minister, said on Friday that he understood that many were eagerly awaiting the vaccine, but warned that “several difficult weeks of vaccine shortage still lie ahead.”
Two other vaccine makers also recently announced results, with Novavax claiming this week that its injection appears 89% effective based on early results and Johnson & Johnson claiming its long-awaited single-injection vaccine was 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe illness.
If these vaccines are finally licensed, it could help ease the pressure on the huge global demand for the limited vaccines currently available.