Oxford vaccine more effective than Pfizer jab, new figures show


The vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is stunningly effective at preventing recipients becoming seriously ill from Covid-19, new analysis shows.

It is even better than the Pfizer jab at stopping people getting so sick that they need to be admitted to hospital, Ministers have been told.

A single shot of either jab cuts the chance of needing hospital treatment by more than 90 per cent, ‘real world’ results from the NHS vaccination programme show.

A single shot of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer jab cuts the chance of needing hospital treatment by more than 90 per cent, ‘real world’ results from the NHS vaccination programme show

But the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, shunned by millions across Europe because of concerns over trial data, is proving slightly more effective at stopping severe Covid-19 illness than the Pfizer jab

But the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, shunned by millions across Europe because of concerns over trial data, is proving slightly more effective at stopping severe Covid-19 illness than the Pfizer jab

But the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, shunned by millions across Europe because of concerns over trial data, is proving slightly more effective at stopping severe Covid-19 illness than the Pfizer jab.

Its apparent superiority even holds among over-70s, The Mail on Sunday understands, vindicating the UK drug regulator’s decision to approve it for use in older people.

The results are a massive boost not just for Oxford and AstraZeneca, but also the Government. Ministers have ordered 100 million doses, making it the workhorse of the NHS vaccination campaign.

The landmark results will add to growing confidence that vaccination is breaking the link between infections and deaths.

The figures were calculated by comparing Covid hospitalisation rates across England in those who have received a first dose of vaccine in the NHS rollout, to those of a similar age who have not.

They follow a Scottish study of Covid hospitalisation rates, published last week, which came to similar conclusions. Edinburgh University researchers found that by the fourth week after injection, ‘the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines were shown to reduce the risk of hospitalisation from Covid-19 by up to 85 per cent and 94 per cent, respectively’.

Germany and France look set to approve the AstraZeneca Covid jab for the over 65s in a major U-turn aimed at speeding up their shambolic vaccine drives. Pictured: A near empty vaccination centre in Germany earlier this month

Germany and France look set to approve the AstraZeneca Covid jab for the over 65s in a major U-turn aimed at speeding up their shambolic vaccine drives. Pictured: A near empty vaccination centre in Germany earlier this month

France's Emmanuel Macron even went as far as to claim the jab was 'quasi-ineffective' at protecting the elderly

Germany's Angela Merkel caused further confusion when she appeared to snub the idea of having the AstraZeneca vaccine herself

In a ignominious climbdown, health chiefs in both countries have now suggested they could update their policies for the Oxford University researched jab after initially refusing to give it to the over 65s.

EU nations including Germany are being far outpaced by Britain in the vaccine race after Brussels was late to place orders with firms including Pfizer and AstraZeneca

EU nations including Germany are being far outpaced by Britain in the vaccine race after Brussels was late to place orders with firms including Pfizer and AstraZeneca 

Among over-80s, who are at highest risk of severe illness, a single dose cut the risk of needing hospital treatment by 81 per cent from week four onwards, when the results from both types were combined.

Well-placed sources said the larger English study found hospitalisation rates in over-70s were slightly lower among recipients of the Oxford vaccine than those who got the Pfizer drug. Last month, German authorities advised against using the Oxford vaccine in over-65s, citing lack of evidence of effectiveness from formal trials. The trials were dogged by low numbers of older volunteers.

French President Emmanuel Macron then caused consternation by falsely claiming the Oxford vaccine was ‘quasi-ineffective’ for over-65s – although he has since rowed back by saying he would have it.

In a subtle riposte to European critics, Professor Sarah Gilbert, who spearheaded Oxford’s Covid vaccine project, said real-world data ‘now provides evidence of high effectiveness of both the Oxford-AstraZeneca and BioNTech-Pfizer vaccines in preventing hospitalisation in people over the age of 80, after a single dose, supporting our confidence in using this vaccine in adults of all ages.’

The NHS vaccine programme is already having an impact on the number of people being hospitalised due to Covid-19

The NHS vaccine programme is already having an impact on the number of people being hospitalised due to Covid-19 

As well as reducing the number of hospitalisations, the number of deaths is also falling since the widespread rollout of the vaccine among the elderly

As well as reducing the number of hospitalisations, the number of deaths is also falling since the widespread rollout of the vaccine among the elderly 

The results are already having a stunning impact on Covid statistics, which show hospitalisations and deaths falling fastest among Britain’s oldest people. Deaths in over-75s – almost all of whom have now had their first jab – fell 40 per cent in the last week. By contrast, they fell 23 per cent in under-65s, who remain largely unvaccinated. The number of Covid admissions to intensive care units among over-85s has also dropped to near zero in the last couple of weeks, Public Health England reports indicate.

In another boost for Oxford, new evidence also indicates one dose of its vaccine provides more durable protection. Updated trial results show that from three weeks to three months after first dose, the vaccine was 76 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infection and ‘protection did not wane’.

Protection from one Pfizer dose dipped from 84 per cent five weeks after injection, to 58 per cent after more than six weeks.

Last night it emerged that Germany is reconsidering its recommendation on the Oxford vaccine.

Professor Thomas Mertens, head of the country’s vaccination commission, said there will be ‘a new, updated recommendation very soon’, the newspaper Der Spiegel reported.

He also lamented the fallout from their January decision, saying they ‘never criticised the vaccine’, only the lack of data in over-65s.

He added: ‘However, the whole thing went somehow bad.’

EU could still be jabbing people in 2023 – while Britain’s success in the Covid vaccine’s ‘arms race’ should see the jab offered to all UK adults by July

By GLEN OWEN

Britain’s success in the vaccine ‘arms race’ against the EU has been such that Germany’s bestselling newspaper that it ‘envied’ the UK – and the number-crunching shows why.

If the major European countries don’t dramatically accelerate the speed of their vaccine rollout, it could be 2023 before they have offered a jab to all adults.

PM Boris Johnson has outlined his roadmap plan to lift all restrictions in England by June 21

PM Boris Johnson has outlined his roadmap plan to lift all restrictions in England by June 21

No 10 announced last week that it expected to have offered a vaccine to all UK adults by the end of July, as part of Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ plan to lift all restrictions by June 21.

More than 19 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of a vaccine, compared with just 5.5 million in Germany and fewer than four million in France. If Germany keeps to its current seven-day average of injecting 114,000 people a day, it will be another 551 days before it has reached every adult – on August 28, 2022.

In France, which is managing barely 92,000 jabs a day, liberation would not come until July 8, 2022. Other countries are faring even worse: Italy is due to hit the target on December 11, 2022, while Belgium is on course for May 22, 2023.

Britain’s success has been hailed by No 10 as an illustration of the benefits of Brexit: the UK refused to join the EU’s cumbersome vaccine procurement plan, instead striking out on its own to make early deals for millions of doses.

In its article, the Bild newspaper said: ‘While the British are already planning their summer vacation, Germany is stuck in lockdown.’

It came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would not take the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot because German regulators have not approved it for over-65s – despite the scientific evidence that it is highly effective.

French President Emmanuel Macron initially questioned the AstraZeneca vaccine, but last week admitted that ‘the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been proven’. He added that he would take it – but at 43, and given his country’s current rate of progress, he will have to wait until next year.

France and Germany’s denigration of the Oxford jab is turning a crisis into a catastrophe, writes DR GUNNAR BECK, German MEP

Two contrasting public statements in the past few days tell you everything you need to know about the vaccination crisis engulfing the European Union.

In Britain, the Queen took a clear lead by declaring that anyone hesitant to take the jab should think of others and not themselves.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, told 83 million Germans that she would not be taking the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine – so adding to the fuel to the fire – and caused further concerns by raising the prospect of a compulsory EU vaccination passport in the spring. 

I think you can guess which nation has so far vaccinated 20 million people and has set out a road map for normal life by June 21.

It is small wonder German newspaper Bild last week printed a Union Flag on its front page with the headline 'Dear British, We Envy You'

It is small wonder German newspaper Bild last week printed a Union Flag on its front page with the headline ‘Dear British, We Envy You’

And which, on the other hand, has vaccinated just four million people amid huge public resistance to the AstraZeneca vaccine and an ominous warning of a third wave of infection.

Small wonder that the popular German newspaper Bild last week printed a Union Flag on its front page with the headline ‘Dear British, We Envy You’.

Suspicion of the AstraZeneca jab is not restricted to Germany, of course. It is shared across the EU.

So deep is the distrust, that 80 per cent of the 6.1 million doses delivered to the bloc so far lie unused in hospital refrigerators.

In Berlin, the vaccination centre at the former Tegel Airport– which only offers the AstraZeneca jab – reports that only 200 people have been turning up for the 3,800 daily appointments.

80 per cent of the 6.1 million doses delivered to the bloc so far lie unused in hospital refrigerators

80 per cent of the 6.1 million doses delivered to the bloc so far lie unused in hospital refrigerators

In France, Le Quotidien du Medecin, the GP’s daily newspaper writes about a Paris surgery where half the patients with serious underlying health issues – those most at risk – have turned down the Oxford jab.

In an empty Belgian vaccination centre, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was said to have been dismissed as a ‘low-budget Aldi’ alternative.

This state of affairs has nothing to do with the actual merit of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab – or even the virtues of the vaccination programme itself as a treatment for coronavirus – and everything to do with the political posturing of the EU elite as it tries to cover up its failures by pointing the finger of blame elsewhere.

While Britain used its Brexit freedoms to obtain a range of different vaccines and organise a national roll-out, the EU went into its default mode of mutual back scratching, bickering and failure.

It is small wonder German newspaper Bild last week printed a Union Flag on its front page with the headline 'Dear British, We Envy You'

It is small wonder German newspaper Bild last week printed a Union Flag on its front page with the headline ‘Dear British, We Envy You’

The roots of the problem go back to early last summer when it was slow to secure vaccine supplies, particularly in comparison with Britain.

By July 20 last year, the UK was able to announce it had signed a deal with AstraZeneca for 90 million doses of its vaccine. This was a calculated gamble, but one which the British government hedged by buying small numbers of additional doses from other suppliers.

It seems to have paid off – and in spades.

The EU approach was haphazard. Worse, it acted as if it were sharing out the potential spoils of a war among its member states.

In theory, the European Commission could use its buying power to ensure the rapid delivery of hundreds of millions of doses at rock bottom prices. But that ignored the dead hand of the EU bureaucracy, which is the last thing you need in a crisis.

Valuable weeks and months were lost amid furious horse-trading in Brussels. Many orders were not made until September which, despite its financial clout, put Europe at the back of the queue.

And those orders were badly flawed. In particular, they included an agreement to buy 300 million vaccine doses from the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi – the same quantity as from Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca – even though Sanofi was trailing in development. The arrival of its vaccine has now been put back to the end of this year at the earliest.

In Berlin there are reports that only 200 people have been turning up for the 3,800 daily appointments.

In Berlin there are reports that only 200 people have been turning up for the 3,800 daily appointments.

The truth, of course, is that the EU had simply prioritised EU manufacturers.

Then came the blame game as leaders including Chancellor Merkel, President Macron started a furious row with AstraZeneca over vaccine allocation.

The last thing EU needed was growing public opposition to the Oxford jab. Yet this is precisely what its leaders have brought about to deflect attention from their own failings and incompetence.

The damage seemed to start with erroneous reports in the German press that the AstraZeneca vaccine was only eight per cent effective for those aged over 65. The claim was immediately refuted by both Oxford University and the German Health Ministry.

But the EU gave the impression that it is more than happy for these negative reports to circulate – an attitude which is petty, protectionist and vindictive.

Leaders including Chancellor Merkel (pictured) and President Macron started a furious row with AstraZeneca over vaccine allocation

Leaders including Chancellor Merkel (pictured) and President Macron started a furious row with AstraZeneca over vaccine allocation

Doubts grew when the German authorities announced they would not allow the AstraZeneca jab to be used in people over 65 because there was insufficient data in the trials.

Results from Scotland have shown that the Oxford jab cuts the risk of hospitalisation by as much as 94 per cent.

And evidence from Public Health England revealed in today’s Mail on Sunday suggests it might be even more effective than the Pfizer-Biontech rival.

The real hammer blow, however came from Macron, who claimed – without scientific justification – that the early results were not encouraging for 60 to 65 year old people. Later, he even said the vaccine was quasi-ineffective for people over 65.

True, the European Medical Agency has approved the vaccine, but that has made little difference to the public mood.

Last month, the British government made a second calculated gamble, which again drew sneers from across the English Channel.

By delaying second doses, the UK allowed many more people to receive the initial jab.

So we are now in the situation where a third of the British population has been vaccinated, with infection and mortality rates in decline.

Germany meanwhile has vaccinated just five per cent of its population. France has vaccinated only four per cent.

Faced with this, the EU leaders have finally started to make the right noises.

Macron has claimed that he would take the Oxford jab if he were offered it – a radical change of stance.

Just a few days ago, Angela Merkel’s spokesman pleaded with Germans to take ‘the safe and highly effective’ Oxford vaccine – although the message was clouded when 66-year-old Merkel then announced to the world that she would not be taking it because it is not appropriate for people her age!

Germans have also been concerned to hear her talk about the prospects of a vaccine passport in the spring, amid widespread fears that jabs will become compulsory.

Now, the political point scoring has left many people so confused that they’re turning down appointments.

I’m not a medical doctor or an expert. I’m not even qualified to take a view on whether or not a vaccine programme is the right way forward or not. But I am certain of this: the vaccine chaos has crystallised the true nature the EU. It is in crisis or, rather, it is in state of perpetual crisis.

It is quite clear that Germany could have done so much better on its own, without the dead hand of the EU.

The Brussels true believers are hell-bent on sticking to their project, the construction of a centralised super-state. And in doing so, they manipulate the democratic and legal process left, right and centre – even if that means spreading damaging rumours about a life-saving vaccine in the middle of a public health crisis with catastrophic economic consequences. Germany’s political elite is so convinced the EU can do no wrong that last year it criminalised the vilification of the EU flag, now punishable with up to three years in prison.

It is a perfect illustration of why all-too-often, harmonisation means levelling down to the lowest common denominator.

And why Britain, now freed of its chains, can finally take decisions in its own national interest.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk