AstraZeneca lowers COVID-19 vaccine efficacy to 76 percent from 79 percent after U.S. concerns

AstraZeneca Plc on Wednesday said its vaccine was 76 percent effective against the novel coronavirus, slightly lower than the 79 percent efficacy rate it reported on Monday. The new results from its U.S. trial came after criticisms from American health experts.

The previous reading was based on data gathered through February 17, 2021.

“The primary analysis is consistent with our previously released interim analysis, and confirms that our COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in adults, including those age 65 years and over,” said Mene Pangolos, the company’s executive vice president of BioPharmaceuticals research and development. “We look forward to filing our regulatory submission for Emergency use Authorization in the U.S. and preparing for the rollout of millions of doses across America.”

AstraZeneca said the new results have also confirmed a 100% efficacy against severe or critical disease and hospitalization and 85% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 in participants aged 65 years and over.

The findings were based on 190 symptomatic cases that developed among the 32,449 volunteers who participated in the trial, including 49 cases that were not counted as part of the initial analysis.

AstraZeneca said there were 8 cases of severe disease, all in the placebo arm. It did not say how many people participated in the vaccine and how many in the placebo arm.

On Tuesday, American federal health officials said in a statement AstraZeneca may have used “outdated information” to arrive at the conclusion that its vaccine was 79 percent effective against COVID-19 in a U.S. trial that involved more than 32,000 people.

The Data and Safety Monitoring Board said it was concerned that AstraZeneca may have provided incomplete view of the efficacy data.

“Late Monday, the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) notified NIAID, BARDA, and AstraZeneca that it was concerned by information released by AstraZeneca on initial data from its COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial. The DSMB expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data. We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible,” the United States National Institutes of Health said in a statement.

“Authorization and guidelines for use of the vaccine in the United States will be determined by the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after thorough review of the data by independent advisory committees.”

In a statement on Monday, AstraZeneca had reported that its vaccine was highly effective against the deadly virus and prevented severe disease and death.

The statement by U.S. officials on Tuesday may have already cast doubt on those results, and the new ones.

On Tuesday night, U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said he was awaiting the final report on the AstraZeneca vaccine after the U.S. Data and Safety Monitoring Board said it was concerned the company may have provided incomplete view of the efficacy data it released on Monday.

Asked whether Americans should feel confident in the AstraZeneca vaccine, President Biden said, “We have it available, but we haven’t used it.”

“I’ve been gone all day. I don’t know what’s happened today,” President Biden added after Marine One Arrival to the White House South Lawn. He had spent the day in Ohio.

Asked whether he had spoken with Dr. Anthony Fauci, his infectious disease expert about the AstraZeneca vaccine, Biden said, “Not as of today.  No, I haven’t.”

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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