Tag Archives: Pfizer

Only one cheer for AstraZeneca

It’s becoming clear that the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine is second rate in comparison with certain other technologies, and in particular the Pfizer/BioNTech version. A recent peer reviewed study has shown that the Pfizer version has shown 94% effectiveness.

AZ were on the back foot from the outset, because the medical trials showed only a 62% effectiveness for their vaccine. Whereas the Pfizer vaccine is ineffective in 6 out of every hundred injected, 38 people taking the AZ vaccine will be at risk – more than 6 times as many.

Even this inferior performance was based on a second jab about 4 weeks after the first; but the UK government decided to take a jump into the unknown by extending that gap to 3 months, based on both guesswork and some unpublished data. This was, as the US regulator disbelievingly noted, ‘making it up as they went along’. Pfizer were alarmed enough to issue a statement to say they had no data to determine whether that strategy would be effective or not. Clearly the government believed it knew better than the vaccine’s inventors ; now there’s confidence for you.

The UK approach was based on a (valid) statistical reasoning that by extending the second dose period, more people would be vaccinated because of the limited supplied of vaccine. This was fine for the overall numbers, but the effect at an individual level was not potentially negative and not possible to assess.

These uncertainties were further compounded from the get go because AstraZeneca did not include any meaningful tests of the most at risk cohort, being those over 70. In other words, there was no data to support it having any effect, merely opinions that what worked in the sprightly goose would also work on the geriatric gander.

It’s too early to tell whether the reductions in infections as at this time (25 Feb 21) have been achieved primarily because of the lock down, or because of the vaccination of the first groupings at risk. More will data emerge as the personal mixing restrictions are loosened as Q1/21 progresses.

Boris and Co have inevitably been talking up this mediocre second rate product and praising the UK’s “world beating” science and research capability. It’s all rather dismal. Grumpy drew a short straw and got the AstraZeneca jab (damn) but the bottom line is that this really is one of those situations where something really is better than nothing, especially when ‘nothing’ is a iron lung then a body bag.

Avoid the (ineffective) Oxford Vaccine

Anyone over the age of 70 should seek, if possible, to be vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna varieties of COVID vaccine. The Oxford vaccine essentially condemns anyone in that age group to continue to isolate from society at large for a significant time, unless they wish to adopt a ‘Russian roulette’ approach to a virus which kills 200 times as many of their cohort than its does citizens in their twenties.

As of the second week of December 2020 it is clear that the Oxford vaccine is significantly less effective than the alternatives. The drive to introduce it is hidden in words which appear in several of the utterances by its advocates, and they are ‘cost / benefit’. It’s cheap, and justifiably so since for oldies it is potentially not only inferior, it is inferior only on the basis of assumption and not fact. In the words of one industry reviewer “that from the interim analysis of these trials, we cannot yet infer efficacy in older adults, who are the group at greatest risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes.” In other words, on the potential eve of its introduction, the medical profession has no solid evidence to show it works with the very first targets they plan to vaccinate; the 70 – 80+ age group.

Read that again. The bottom line here is that for the 70+ cohort, the medics simply don’t know whether it will work or not, or if even if it does have an effect, whether that is for only 1 in 100 having the jab. With that knowledge, any sane and rational person will accept the jab as a gamble, but would continue to isolate for 2021, or until the incidence of COVID in the population at large has dropped to a comparatively insignificant level (probably 2022).

With standard vaccine dosing, the Oxford version was 62% effective as opposed to the 92% efficacy for the Pfizer vaccine. However, the testing regime did not include volunteers over the age of 55. Further, as a result of a mistake in dosages (not exactly encouraging confidence in the Oxford team) an alternative regimen was found to be much more effective (up to 90%). That sounds good, but peer reviewers of these results were highly critical, as there was no acceptable explanation for the difference, especially as it was a very small number of volunteers and could have been a fluke. The medics are saying “we have no idea why this works, if indeed it does” and this is not a reason for anyone to inject anything into ones body.

However, UK agencies responsible for licensing (and presumably under political pressure for better numbers) allowed the results of the two regimes to be averaged, resulting in a net apparent efficacy of around 70%. This time, some 500 older people had been included, but none over 70.

Think what this averaging means. If, in the extreme, half the volunteers had a vaccination dosage A which had 0% effect, and the other half vaccination dosage B which had 100% effect (i.e. one dud, one perfect) the ‘average’ efficacy would be 50%. However, there is no such thing as an ‘average’ dose in real life. In this example, it either works or it doesn’t. For an individual, it’s a spin of a coin as to whether you’re safe-ish, or could have been injected with water. Even at the stated efficacy the vaccine will have no effect at all on 2 out of every 5 people.

Readers should be clear; taking this juice and reverting to normal living if you are a pensioner, is a risk which is, in Grumpy’s view, simply not worth taking.