Many Europeans are desperate for a coronavirus vaccine. But not just any vaccine.
As AstraZeneca shots are rolling out to European Union nations this month, joining the Pfizer and Moderna doses already available, some people are balking at being offered a vaccine that they perceive—fairly or not—as second-best.
In Poland, some teachers had misgivings about being put in line for the AstraZeneca vaccine, viewing it as less effective than the others, the Associated Press reported.
Police unions in Spain have raised concerns about a government decision to administer AstraZeneca shots to police, military, firefighters and teachers. Some Italian doctors in the private sector are declining AstraZeneca shots, saying they want the Pfizer or Moderna shots going to public healthcare workers.
Regulators in more than 50 countries, including the EU’s drug watchdog, have authorized AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which was developed with the University of Oxford. Several European nations have recommended the drug only for people under 65, and other countries have recommended it for those under 55.
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot acknowledged the criticism but said regulators had reviewed the data and deemed the vaccine safe and effective. “Is it perfect? No, it’s not perfect, but it’s great,” Soriot said. “We’re going to save thousands of lives and that’s why we come to work every day.”
The World Health Organization says the AstraZeneca vaccine is about 63% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 after two doses. That’s less than the 95% effectiveness reported by Pfizer and Moderna, but experts caution against such comparisons as the studies were done at different times and under different conditions.
French President Emmanuel Macron angered scientists last month when he called the AstraZeneca vaccine “quasi-ineffective” for people over 65. French Health Minister Olivier Veran, who is 40, made a point this week of getting the AstraZeneca vaccine to show government confidence in it for those under 65.