Dr Mark Toshner

We could all pay the price for the EU’s foolish vaccine nationalism

(Photo by John Thys, via Getty Images.)

I’m a card carrying, Europe-loving, wishy-washy centre-left liberal. It therefore pains me to point this out: the EU in general, Ursula von der Leyen specifically, and some of the prominent European leaders such as Emmanuel Macron are getting policy and messaging on vaccines badly wrong. They need to urgently ditch the peacock displays of tribal politics. The French president, in particular, who leads one of the most vaccine sceptical western nations, should not have so publicly questioned the efficacy of what has clearly turned out to be a vaccine that is working in the fight against Covid-19. The consequences of their words could well be long-lasting.

‘The early results we have are not encouraging,’ said Macron earlier this month, referring to the vaccine effects for 60 to 65-year-olds. His words were premature at the time and look even more so now, in the wake of fantastic data showing the effects of the ChAdOx and Pfizer vaccines in the real world, with around a 94 per cent and 85 per cent reduction in hospitalisations.

I am an investigator in the ChAdOx vaccine studies, so I have a stake in these trials, but nonetheless the facts speak for themselves: the Oxford vaccine is helping to ensure that many people do not fall seriously ill from coronavirus.

It’s true that there are important caveats in the data published yesterday. The timings of when the vaccines were given are slightly different and affected by the extended second wave and subsequent lockdown, so it is not wise to compare the two vaccines head-to-head. This is known in the business as a confounding variable in an observational study and it is why randomisation is the keystone of modern trials. It means you need to take any conclusions with a pinch of salt. Despite this, the main take home message is that once the vaccines are given time to work, they work spectacularly well.

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