UK regulators say extra AstraZeneca vaccine data highlights efficacy in elderly

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FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Vial and sryinge are seen in front of displayed AstraZeneca logo

LONDON (Reuters) - British regulators have received extra trial data from AstraZeneca that supports their view that the COVID-19 vaccine developed with Oxford University is effective in the elderly, a vaccines official said on Friday

Britain has been rolling out the shot among all age groups after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was the first regulator to approve it in December, but some other European countries have said more data is needed before it is given to those over 65.

Munir Pirmohamed, Chair of the Commission on Human Medicines' COVID-19 Vaccines Benefit Risk Expert Working Group said British regulators had noticed the smaller number of under-65s in the data when they approved the vaccine.

"Nevertheless, there was no evidence (to suggest) that those people over 65 were not getting evidence of efficacy," he said at an MHRA news briefing, asked by Reuters about efficacy of the shot in the elderly.

"Since then we've seen more data coming through from AstraZeneca as more people are completing the trial, which highlights again that efficacy in the elderly is seen, and there's no evidence of lack of efficacy."

He added elderly people were generating strong immune responses, and said that the most important thing was that both AstraZeneca's vaccine and a shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech were preventing serious disease and deaths.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has said that the EU has decided not to compromise on safety as she defends the slower pace of approval of shots in the bloc.

Asked about the suggestion that Britain had compromised on safety and efficacy standards, MHRA Chief Executive June Raine defended the regulator's standards.

"I think our position is very clear in terms of the rigorous science that MHRA pursues in the interests of public confidence, public safety, and the effectiveness of these important vaccines," she said.

Oxford University on Friday said it had found its vaccine had similar efficacy against the variant first identified in Kent, southern England, as previously circulating strains.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by William James)