AstraZeneca’s boss has said the new wave of coronavirus cases spreading throughout Europe might be linked to the rejection of its Covid-19 vaccine by the EU.
Speaking to the BBC, Pascal Soriot said that countries in Europe refusing to use the vaccine it developed with Oxford University is a possible explanation for the explosion in infections seen recently in places such as Austria and the Netherlands.
Germany dropped the vaccines for the over-65s in January saying there was no evidence of its efficacy.
Italy, France, Poland and Sweden also stopped using it though data published later showed the vaccine was as least as effective as the Pfizer and Moderna alternatives especially over longer periods.
Links between the Astra vaccine and blood clots were also cited as a reason for not administering the vaccine and the UK even stopped giving it to people aged under 30.
AstraZeneca was even sued by the EU for failing to deliver what the bloc claimed was an agreed amount of doses of its vaccine.
“It’s really interesting when you look at the UK,” Soriot said.
” Here was a big peak of infections but not so many hospitalisations relative to Europe. In the UK the vaccine was used to vaccinate older people whereas in Europe people thought initially the vaccine doesn’t work in older people.
“I’m not saying there was any mistake done by anybody, I’m just saying that there’s a lot of data that still need to be made available that we don’t have.”
Soriot added that the eefectivemene4s of the Astra/Oxford could be linked to how it stimulates T-cells, a key part of the body’s natural defences.
“You have two dimensions to this immune response… one is the antibody response and two is the so-called T-cell response.
“And the antibody response is what drives the immediate reaction or defence of the body when you’re attacked by the virus.
“And the T-cell response takes a little longer to come in. But it’s actually more durable. It lasts longer.
“Everybody is focused on antibodies, but antibodies you see them decline over time. This T-cell response remains important.”
Soriot was speaking just a week after s AstraZeneca unveiled plans to make a profit from its vaccine, having originally sold it at cost.
He has no regrets about the decision to make no money from the vaccine up to now even though Pfizer and Moderna have both made a fortune from their rival jabs.
The Astra boss said that as it has plentiful stocks of vaccines under contract to supply at cost, there was unlikely to be a benefit until next year.
“We still have a lot of orders at no profit to deliver. So they will be delivered next year.”
He said that many poorer countries would still receive supplies at cost.