Currently, people in the top priority group who are aged between 18 and 64 can be given the AstraZeneca vaccine. This is a safe and highly effective vaccine, one of three currently approved for use in the European Union.
Most importantly, in the majority of cases the vaccine prevents a COVID-19 infection. And should a vaccinated person become infected, it will prevent severe outcomes. No participant in the clinical trials prior to approval had to be admitted to hospital for treatment, states the latest overview of the safety and efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine, published by the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI).
The AstraZeneca vaccine has gone through the regular, unabbreviated, approval procedures of the European Medicines Agency, and has passed all required safety and efficacy tests, as have the two other vaccines currently authorised within the EU - the BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Studies indicate that the vaccine has an efficacy of 70 per cent, putting it well above the required 50 per cent level. Although this figure is slightly lower than the two other vaccines hitherto approved for the EU, the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and prevents a severe outcome.
What do we mean by 70 per cent effective? The figure does not refer to the level of protection afforded to any one vaccinated person, but to the risk of a group of vaccinated persons becoming sick as compared to a group of non-vaccinated people exposed to comparable risks of infection. 70 per cent effective does not then mean that a vaccinated person has 70 per cent protection, but that 70 per cent of COVID-19 cases were prevented that would have occurred without the vaccination.
With any vaccine there can be a reaction. This includes pain at the site of injection, headaches or feeling tired – these reactions occur comparatively frequently following vaccinations, but they are short-term reactions, and they are a natural sign that the body is producing an immune response to the vaccine.
The PEI constantly monitors reactions to all approved vaccines: complications are systematically recorded and evaluated so that any necessary action can be taken.
We provide answers to all the frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines here.