Why the German press misreported on AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine

Why the German press misreported on AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine

A German newspaper’s inaccurate claim about the efficacy of the vaccine among over-65s shows the dangers of turning a scientific story into a political briefing war.

The UK government is embroiled in a war of words with the German press, after reports briefed by anonymous government sources emerged in the Handelsblatt, a financial daily, that AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine may be only be 8 per cent effective among over-65s. If true, the vaccine would be close to useless for the elderly, the group most at-risk of Covid-19, and would seriously jeopardise the vaccination strategies of many countries which are relying on AstraZeneca’s cheap and easily transportable jab to provide a large proportion of their immunisation strategy. 

But the Handelsblatt story was swiftly denied by AstraZeneca, which called it “completely incorrect” on the record, and later by the German Health Ministry, which clarified that the 8 per cent figure appeared to refer to the proportion of people in the AstraZeneca trials between the ages of 56 and 69, not to the rate of efficacy.