AstraZeneca released updated data about its COVID-19 vaccine, a more recent analysis says the vaccine is 76 percent effective against symptomatic COVID-19. It’s a slight drop from the 79 percent the company announced in an announcement earlier this week. That number was based on outdated data, U.S. health officials said in an unusual public statement reprimanding the company.
Original efficacy was based on an interim analysis with data collected up to February 17. But adding more data collected after that date showed that the vaccine may have been 69 to 74 percent effective, according to a letter from the independent panel that followed and reported the clinical trial by The Washington PostThe panel “strongly recommended” that those figures be included.
The new result is a few percentage points higher, but a finding in that range would still have been a good result and much higher than the 50 percent efficacy limit the US Food and Drug Administration said it wanted COVID-19 vaccines last fall. A federal official told The Washington Post that AstraZeneca’s decision to publish only the higher number earlier this week was like “telling your mom you got an A in a course, if you got an A in the first quiz and a C in the general course. “
Releasing scientific data in a press release instead of a scientific article means that outside experts cannot investigate the claims. The companies behind the first three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States also first reported the results of their clinical trials in press releases. Their data held up, but experts still were critical of that strategyAstraZeneca’s failed data release shows why they were so careful.
The updated data indicated that this vaccine is likely to be a good vaccine and will play an important role in the fight against COVID-19 in the world. It is inexpensive compared to the Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech vaccines, it can be stored at room temperature, and it is earmarked as the premier vaccine to vaccinate countries with lower incomes
But the past year has been more controversial than good science. The company was not transparent to regulators if, for example, the trial had safety concerns, and the clinical trial had errors and an opaque methodology. The US clinical trial was supposed to clear up the confusion. Instead, the failed data release added to the mess, just as public health officials are trying to bolster confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.