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Did AstraZeneca keep Britain safer from COVID-19 than Europe?

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Pascal Soriot knows how to make a headline. The AstraZeneca PLC chief executive officer gave a rare interview to the BBC to mark the opening of a £1 billion ($1.3 billion) research facility in Cambridge. But he couldn’t resist a little plug for his vaccine, too.

“If you look at the U.K., there was a big peak of infections but not so many hospitalizations relative to Europe,” he said. His suggestion — made in dulcet tones and bracketed with the caveat that more research needs to be done — is that the AstraZeneca vaccine offers more longer-term effectiveness against serious illness than rival jabs produced by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. In other words, Britain’s home-grown jab is the reason the country is faring better with the latest COVID-19 wave than Europe.

Only it’s not that simple.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been shown to provide lower levels of protection against COVID-19 infection than the Pfizer vaccine. Never mind that, Soriot says. Antibodies aren’t the only criteria by which we should judge a vaccine’s worth. “What I’m saying is that T cells do matter,” Soriot said “and this vaccine has been shown to stimulate T cells to a higher degree in older people.”

He’s certainly got a point. Adenovirus vaccines are designed to get a T-cell immune response, which is considered longer lasting than the B cells, which produce antibodies. University of Birmingham clinical........

© The Japan Times

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