Vaccines in the elderly: yet more data today!

It’s been a very busy day keeping track of all the news emerging this afternoon, UK time, on the different vaccines! In this second but short post today, I provide an update on the European decision on the AstraZeneca vaccine and give very brief comments on the Janssen and Novovax vaccines.

EU decision on AstraZeneca Vaccine

  • The AstraZeneca vaccine is now licensed for use throughout the EU despite the German worries
  • In terms of interval between doses the license says: “The second dose should be administered between 4 and 12 weeks (28 to 84 days) after the first dose” 
  • In terms of age, whereas the EU has enabled its use in adults aged over 55, its wording is “Currently available clinical trial data do not allow an estimate of vaccine efficacy in subjects over 55 years of age


  • In terms of my post earlier today, I believe the EU is right not to have actually restricted use to adults under 55
  • Interestingly, the EU has not highlighted the data suggesting that a longer interval than 3 weeks between doses is preferable
  • The EU’s lack of specific endorsement for those over 55 was perhaps expected given their regulatory viewpoint
  • However, I do not change the conclusions in my earlier post today about the likely benefit for the elderly of this vaccine, especially given the new data from Janssen (see below)

Janssen one dose vaccine

  • Last week* I had already indicated that the results from the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine would be published at the end of this month
  • (One of the problems in this pandemic is that the results of important research are first announced by press release and only later are the detailed results made available to the scientific community to make a detailed assessment)
  • The press release suggests a very good result clinically after one dose, with a two thirds reduction in the number of cases.
  • The press release quotes that the vaccine was as effective in those aged over 60


  • These results are exciting at this stage
  • I am unable to provide any detailed assessment of the potential role of this single shot vaccine until the detailed results are available to allow a propter scrutiny
  • I would also make the observation that the results of their preliminary laboratory assessment were only published last week. This shows the speed with which companies are very keen to publicise their clinical findings as quickly as possible!
  • There is also a relevance of these findings for the AstraZeneca vaccine, as the J&J vaccine is using an almost identical technology (with both being different to the Pfizer and Moderna RNA approaches)
  • Thus the observation that the J&J vaccine is effective in older people, would increase my expectation that further data from the AstraZeneca vaccine on older people may be similarly effective



  • This is a very different approach to vaccine design *
  • Again we only have a press release and although the results are impressive, we do need to wait for further information to be made available
  • One data item I did pick up was that there was only one case of very severe infection in the whole trial (which was in the placebo arm) so it is difficult to infer too much at this stage on this aspect of protection

*For those who are interested in how this vaccine works see my post from early November

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