Thousands of healthcare workers are refusing to take the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine over concerns about side effects and efficacy, with some arguing that they should be prioritized for the more effective doses from Pfizer and Moderna.
Multiple unions representing healthcare workers in Europe have said many of their members don’t want the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC, which was found to be 62% effective at reducing symptomatic disease in its trials and 81% effective in later data when the two doses were spaced out longer (competitors showed 90% efficacy).
A group representing 3,000 doctors in Italy wrote a letter to the Italian government last week demanding that “private doctors and dentists be inoculated with mRNA vaccines” like those developed by Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech, as opposed to AstraZeneca’s “since there is evidence they are more effective.”
Meanwhile, Germany and France have both reported that hundreds of thousands of AstraZeneca vials are sitting unused, as many skip vaccination appointments for AstraZeneca’s doses specifically.
“Medical staff need the most effective vaccine,” Jerome Marty, the president of a French doctor’s union told The Wall Street Journal in an interview earlier this week, adding: “We need to keep the AstraZeneca vaccine for healthy and young people.”
Hesitancy has also been catalyzed by reports from some hospitals that the side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine appear stronger than those caused by the Moderna and Pfizer doses, prompting France to issue guidance to stagger giving the shot and two regions in Sweden to pause vaccinations.
These temporary side effects—which include headaches and fevers that typically fade within a day or so—have also been linked to Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines, and AstraZeneca emphasized that it has not confirmed any serious adverse side effects to date.
“Currently, the reactions reported are as we would expect based on the evidence gathered from our clinical trial programme,” a spokesperson for AstraZeneca said in a statement to Forbes. “Our vaccine has been authorised in more than 50 countries across four continents. There have been no confirmed serious adverse events associated with vaccination with COVID 19 vaccine AstraZeneca.”
Roughly a dozen European countries have limited the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65 due to a lack of data about its efficacy among older people. Nonetheless, this vaccine candidate (which has not yet been approved in the U.S.) proved 100% effective at protecting against severe illness and death from Covid-19 in trials, just like its two competitors.
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