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Alex Wickham at Politico tweets: "The German Health Ministry has DENIED the Handelsblatt report claiming the AstraZeneca had only 8% efficacy for over-65s. They say there has been confusion and 8% actually refers to the number of people in the study between 56 and 69 years old."
- The denial comes after a bombshell article from German outlet Handelsblatt last night, which claimed that according to a German Health Ministry study, the AstraZeneca/Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine was only 8% effective for the over-65's.
- This sparked immediate and angry rebukes from AstraZeneca as well as the UK gov't. Politico this morning quotes a 'Whitehall insider' accusing the German press of 'Russian-style disinformation'.
- AstraZeneca finds itself in the firing line of EU leaders at present, with an issue at its Belgian production facility set to see a 60% shortfall on its initial order of vaccines to the EU. There is anger both at the shortfall, with the EU asking why vaccines were not mass produced before its approval by the EMA, and at the fact that supply to the UK, which is racing ahead in its vaccination rollout, is not disrupted.
- The EU has raised the prospect of halting exports of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to the UK from its production sites in Belgium if the bloc's supply is limited by other firms (i.e. AstraZeneca). The bloc enacted similar measures early in the pandemic in limiting the export of PPE outside the EU when it was required by member states.
- The Handelsblatt story risks a major blow to UK-German relations if the report is believed to have damaged the AZ vaccine's reputation or caused concern among the UK population towards the vaccine.