Many Europeans are desperate for a coronavirus vaccine. But not just any vaccine.
As AstraZeneca shots roll out in European Union countries this month, joining the already available Pfizer and Moderna doses, some people are reluctant to offer a vaccine that they perceive – fair or not – to be second best.
In Poland, some teachers had concerns about being queued for the AstraZeneca vaccine and considered it to be less effective than the others, the Associated Press reported.
Police unions in Spain have raised concerns about a government decision to give AstraZeneca shots to police, military, fire departments and teachers. Some Italian private sector doctors oppose AstraZeneca shots, saying they want the Pfizer or Moderna shots to go to public health workers.
Regulatory authorities in more than 50 countries, including the EU Drugs Watchdog, have approved AstraZeneca's vaccine, which was developed with Oxford University. Several European nations have recommended the drug only for people under 65, while other countries have recommended it for people under 55.
Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, confirmed the criticism but said regulators had reviewed the data and found the vaccine safe and effective. "Is it perfect? No, it's not perfect, but it's great, ”said Soriot. "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 63% effective after two doses in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. This is less than the 95% effectiveness reported by Pfizer and Moderna. However, experts caution against comparisons because the studies were conducted at different times and under different conditions.
French President Emmanuel Macron angered scientists last month when he described the AstraZeneca vaccine as "virtually ineffective" for people over 65. French Health Minister Olivier Veran, 40, warned this week that the AstraZeneca vaccine is instilling government confidence in him for those under 65.