There are many reasons why Italy has the rhythm of administering the AstraZeneca vaccine slow. One reason is the lack of confidence in many of AstraZeneca’s solutions compared to the other two vaccines authorized in the European Union, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The doubts and doubts – whose impact on vaccination trends is difficult to estimate – are evidenced by the trade union statements of some professional groups and the concessions that some citizens reported after setting the vaccination date.
At present, hundreds of thousands of AstraZeneca vaccine doses are stored in the refrigerators of healthcare companies waiting to be administered to school and university employees, law enforcement, prisoners or in the community. To date, 404,000 doses have been administered, 26 percent of the total doses delivered. On the other hand, Pfizer-BioNTech utilization is close to 90 percent: 4 million doses were administered out of a total of 4.5 million delivered.
Part of the problems are due to the delay in data transfer (this happened in Piedmont, but also in Emilia Romagna and in the Autonomous Province of Trento), while another part is due to the fact that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not given to the elderly, among the first to be vaccinated according to the plan Patriotism. Then there is distrust of many, who consider AstraZeneca to be a variant of the Series B vaccine. It’s not just an Italian problem: even in Germany, for example, many people seem skeptical of AstraZeneca, despite reassurances in recent weeks about With its effectiveness and safety.
In recent days, skepticism towards AstraZeneca has been seen, for example, in the eastern region of Bergamo, where Tell The local copy of Corriere della Sera.
Given the high rate of recorded infections, the Lombardy region expected a vaccination campaign for all persons over the age of 60 years and who live in the 15 municipalities of this region with the aim of forming a “health cordon”, that is, to protect the areas where the incidence of infections is less. The departments started last week and from the first checks it appears that a large number of people who were booked did not show up for the appointment specifically due to distrust towards the AstraZeneca vaccine.
According to infectious disease specialist Enrico Pompana, head of the hospital’s hygiene department and coordinator of vaccination activity at East Bergamo ASST, there is talk of 20-30 percent of waivers on total bookings: however, partly due to the fact that so many people have been notified per night Only previous.
Even in Forli County, the slow pace of management was partly driven by the abandonment of AstraZeneca.
Roberto Bandini, Director of the Forli Office of Hygiene and Hygiene of Emilia-Romagna Health Company, L said Forli today In order not to understand the skepticism: “It is a safe vaccine, and the immune system of an individual does not differ fundamentally between the ages of 55 and 65,” he explained. On the other hand, there is no Pfizer vaccine available to everyone, and there is no substitute for it. Again, there is no more reliable data to try to determine the influence of “opposition”.
Most documented, however, are the suspicions expressed by unions in some groups that the AstraZeneca vaccine was intended to fulfill.
Domenico Piannis, Secretary General of the COISP Police Union, He explained The decision to give the AstraZeneca vaccine to the police was considered unimaginable. “It is the one that currently offers the lowest potency rate,” Pianis said. “This is the thousandth display of rapprochement with which one comes close to the security sector, despite the fact that the state police alone already counts in its ranks more than 7,500 injured and eight dead.”
CISL School He complains of a lack of involvement In choosing to use the AstraZeneca vaccine to vaccinate school staff. According to the union, many school administrators are questioning the benefits of joining the vaccination campaign, “given AstraZeneca’s alleged lower immunization coverage compared to the more effective Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.” The union talks about whether or not to vaccinate AstraZeneca, “full of doubts and questions.”
Despite the specific preparations, some doctors seem to have doubts whether they will be vaccinated with AstraZeneca. President of the Order of Physicians of Rome, Antonio Magee, He explained to ANSA That many independent physicians under the age of 55 have told ASLs that they do not want to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca “because they believe it is not appropriate for their occupational risks.”
The safety of the vaccine
Doubts about this vaccine start from afar, especially from the licensing stage, More exposed Compared to Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. AstraZeneca’s clinical trials weren’t perfect, in fact the company was in November He admitted a mistake At the dose that caused failure to comply with the protocols established for the experiment. This limitation was the root cause of the lack of reliable data on efficacy after the age of 55.
Despite the more complex development, at the end of January, the European Medicines Agency, EMA, He gave his opinion in favor of the vaccine without any age limit. Initially, the Italian Medicines Agency AIFA recommended its use from 18 to 55 years old, and after that Extended for up to 65 years.
According to data reported by AIFA, AstraZeneca vaccine was overall 59.5 percent effective in preventing disease symptoms, with differences based on the distance between the two doses. In clinical trial participants who received the second dose after 12 weeks, efficacy was up to 82.4 percent 14 days after the new dose. In all participants who received at least one dose of the vaccine, starting at 22 days after the first dose, hospitalization was not observed.
The data collected in other countries where the vaccination campaign is in a more advanced stage appears to confirm its effectiveness. A study conducted by the University of EdinburghIn Scotland, it examined the data collected between December 8, 2020 and February 15 of this year, during which time 1.14 million doses of the vaccine were administered: 650,000 people received the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, while another 490,000 received from AstraZeneca. Study results show that four weeks after the first dose, the AstraZeneca vaccine resulted in a decrease in hospitalizations by up to 94 percent, while the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was as high as 85 percent.
The data is encouraging even if the field of analysis is restricted to the elderly: in this case, vaccination has reduced the risk of hospitalization by 81 percent despite being among the population most at risk of developing severe symptoms.
Also read: The encouraging news from the UK on vaccines
AstraZeneca Extension for Seniors
Promising data from the Scottish study are making countries more cautious about using AstraZeneca to consider extending the administration to older adults as well.
Thomas Mertens, chair of the vaccination committee in Germany. He said that consideration would be given to updating the recommendation To change existing restrictions. As in Italy, the use of AstraZeneca’s doses in Germany is also very low, at less than 30 percent of the total doses delivered, and The New York Times He explained That many German citizens consider AstraZeneca a ‘second class’ vaccine.
This is the result of uncertain and contradictory communication first by the company and institutions and then by the media: it is also one of the reasons it has had an impact in Italy, according to many observers. Mertens said that the committee had never criticized the vaccine, but had only pointed out the lack of efficacy data over the age of 65. Mertens added that the committee’s opinion of AstraZeneca improved after new data arrived.
AIFA is also considering extending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over the age of 65. Lorenzo Whitom, President and CEO of AstraZeneca Italia explained a Sky TG24 AstraZeneca is in contact with AIFA and the Minister for a possible new recommendation. Whitom explained that there is no doubt about the safety of the vaccine. He said, “Just look at the EMA data sheet: The vaccine is approved for ages 18”. We have additional data from Scotland that might be helpful. In France and Germany, this hypothesis is already being evaluated, and we will see in the next few days.