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Some Europeans get choosy about which vaccines they want

Published on February 13, 2021 5:36 AM
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by VANESSA GERA and NICOLE WINFIELD

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PANDEMIC Vaccines
 
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Many Europeans are desperate for a coronavirus vaccine. But not just any vaccine.

As AstraZeneca shots are rolling out to European Union nations this month, joining the Pfizer and Moderna doses already available, some people are balking at being offered a vaccine that they perceive — fairly or not — as second-best.

Poland began vaccinating teachers Friday with the AstraZeneca vaccine, and some had misgivings about being put in line for a vaccine they believe is less effective than the others.

Ewelina Jankowska, the director of a primary and high school in Warsaw's southern Wilanow district, said nobody in her school was enthusiastic about getting the AstraZeneca shot, although many signed up, eager for any protection against a virus that has upended their lives and their students' schooling.

"I still fear the illness more than the AstraZeneca vaccine," said Jankowska, who was infected with COVID-19 in November and had a very slow recovery.

AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish company, developed its vaccine with the University of Oxford. While regulators in more than 50 countries, including the EU's drug watchdog, have authorized its widespread use, it has attracted more criticism than others due to concerns about its human trials.

Several European nations have recommended the drug only for people under 65, and other countries have recommended it for those under 55, because AstraZeneca's trials included a relatively small number of older people.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot acknowledged the criticism but said regulators had reviewed the data and deemed the vaccine safe and effective. COVID-19 vaccines are in short supply, he said, and the AstraZeneca shot offers high levels of protection against severe disease, which is the most important benchmark in fighting a virus that has killed more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

"Is it perfect? No, it's not perfect, but it's great," Soriot said Thursday. "We're going to save thousands of lives and that's why we come to work every day."

The World Health Organization says the AstraZeneca vaccine is about 63% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 after two doses. That's less than the 95% effectiveness reported by Pfizer and Moderna, but experts caution against such comparisons as the studies were done at different times and under different conditions. Furthermore, all have proven extremely effective at preventing serious illness and death.

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