Wrong claims about Oxford vaccine helping to fuel COVID spread, says scientist

Experts say vaccines remain key to fighting COVID despite concerns over variant protection

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Misinformation about the effectiveness of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab has helped fuel the spread of COVID-19 – and still risks undermining the fight against rising infections, one of the scientists behind the vaccine has warned.

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French president Emmanuel Macron wrongly claimed the jab was 'quasi-ineffective' for over-65s earlier this year, while misleading reports from Germany said it was only 8 per cent effective in this age group.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said that 'confused messaging' about the vaccine in protecting against Beta and other variants threatens to erode confidence in the jab, at a time when millions of people around the world remain unvaccinated.

He pointed to the example of South Africa, which rejected the Oxford vaccine back in February due to concerns about its effectiveness before later suffering an intense third wave of infections caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Fears have returned surrounding the jab’s ability to protect against Beta, which has been shown to be effective in partially evading the immune response triggered by the vaccines and causing symptomatic infection.

Rising spread

It's rising spread in France prompted ministers to impose new travel restrictions on the country, which are set to be reversed, due to fears that the variant could take off in the UK and disrupt the national rollout.

However, Sir Andrew said that worries over Beta were unfounded, insisting that the Oxford vaccine remained highly effective in preventing hospitalisation and death from the variant.

Writing for The Independent, alongside Shabir Madhi, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, Sir Andrew suggested the lessons from South Africa needed to be learned across the globe.

South Africa was one of the first African countries to procure the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from Serum Institute of India,

they wrote.

Unfortunately, these doses were never deployed because of misguided fears over efficacy, allowing the present third wave to occur in a largely unvaccinated population.

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