“AstraZeneca vaccine apparently hardly effective in seniors,” reported the German economic newspaper Handelsblatt on Monday 25 January. “Setback for vaccine” ran as its top story in print the next day,1 subtitled, “The AstraZeneca vaccine apparently has an effectiveness of only 8% in the elderly. The government’s vaccination strategy is shaky.”
Stories like this illustrate the need for good medical journalism and experienced editors who care about accuracy and reputation more than clicks.
With huge global public health implications, Handelsblatt’s story rapidly became international news—and was rapidly rebuffed. Calls for the underlying data filled social media. An AstraZeneca spokesperson described the reported figure as “completely incorrect.”2
- Rückschlag bei Impfstoff. [German] Handelsblatt. 26 January 2021. https://epaper.handelsblatt.com/?ticket=ST-666147-Av0VzUrSb52HnzhIEDXp-ap1#read/11/Handelsblatt/2021-01-26/1.
- Expert reaction to reports from Germany that the Oxford-AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccines has 8% efficacy in over 65s. Science Media Centre. 25 January 2021. www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-reports-from-germany-that-the-oxford-astrazeneca-covid-19-vaccine-has-8-efficacy-in-over-65s.