BERLIN — The European Union’s regulator on Friday authorized the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for use in the 27-country bloc, expanding its tools to fight the pandemic even as it continued to feud with AstraZeneca over a supply shortage.
The vaccine developed jointly by Oxford University. The British-Swedish pharmaceutical company is cheaper and easier to distribute than the other leading offerings, thus has been eagerly awaited around the world.
But inconsistent dosing in its clinical trials has muddied assessments of its effectiveness. And some governments have raised concern about a lack of data on the efficacy in people 65 and older, who represented only 6 per cent of trial participants but account for a majority of coronavirus deaths and are high on most countries’ vaccination priority lists.
The United States is waiting for further trial data before authorization. Germany announced Thursday that it would recommend the vaccine only for adults younger than 65. And just hours before the European regulator gave its judgment, French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters in Paris that it seems “quasi-ineffective” among older people.
The European Medicines Agency, though, approved the vaccine for everyone 18 and older, saying that while it is not yet known how well the vaccine will work for older people, “protection is expected, given that an immune response is seen in this age group and based on experience with other vaccines.”
Britain and India have also authorized it for all adults.
“This has been a difficult year for many, and it’s caused a lot of hardship, not just in Europe but across the globe,” said Emer Cooke, executive director of the E.U. regulatory agency. “But let’s not forget that this year has seen progress at an unprecedented scale and speed in scientific terms.”