Four out of five doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine delivered to the European Union have still not been used, according to an investigation by the Guardian.
The vaccine has achieved some controversy, after it was announced deliveries to the EU would be lower than planned in the first quarter, leading to a diplomatic incident that almost blew up the Brexit agreement, and red faces in the EU Commission.
However, the Guardian has revealed, despite reduced deliveries of the vaccine, the vast majority of those available have not been used.
The data comes from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and other official sources, and the paper estimates that 4,849,752 of the 6,134,707 doses distributed among the EU27 have not yet been administered.
Belgium has received 201,600 doses, of which only 9,832 have been administered, less than 5%, or half the EU average. That compares to 81% of the doses delivered by Pfizer, the first to be approved in the EU.
Part of the reason, the paper says, is that the authorities in some member states have advised the vaccine not be used for people over the age of 65, not because of safety concerns, but simply because the data from clinical trials did not provide sufficient evidence of efficacy for that group of the population.
Another clue was given by Angela Merkel, the outgoing German chancellor, in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung this week, in which she talked of the problem of ‘vaccine acceptance’.
“There is … currently an acceptance problem with the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Merkel said. “AstraZeneca is a reliable vaccine, effective and safe, approved by the European Medicines Agency and recommended in Germany up to the age of 65 years. All the authorities tell us that this vaccine can be trusted. As long as vaccines are as scarce as they are now, you cannot choose what to vaccinate with.”
Merkel is now 66, and outside the age range her country recommends for the AstraZeneca vaccine. French president Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, is not too old. Having criticised the vaccine earlier, he has now changed his mind.
“In view of the latest scientific studies, the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been proven,” Macron said. “My turn will come, but I’ve got time. If that’s the vaccine that’s offered to me, I will take it, of course.”