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Britain tries to cool AstraZeneca concerns, CEO touts new vaccine trial


A man walks past a sign at an AstraZeneca site in Macclesfield, central England.

Phil Noble | Reuters

LONDON — Government ministers and experts in Britain have openly backed a coronavirus vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford University, after doubts were raised in the U.S. this week.  

Housing Minister Robert Jenrick became the latest in a line of people commenting on the vaccine, which has shown to have an average 70% effectiveness at preventing the virus.

“I don’t think there is any reason to be unduly concerned,” he told Sky News on Friday morning. “We have now written to the body that will independently assess the veracity and the safety of the vaccine.”

The U.K. government’s top scientific advisor, Patrick Vallance, said the focus should be on the fact that the vaccine actually works when asked about doubts regarding the trial.

“The headline result is the vaccine works and that’s very exciting,” Vallance said during a news conference on Thursday. Chief Medical Advisor Chris Whitty echoed his comments at the same conference, saying there was always scientific debate about virtually everything. 

“The key thing from our point of view is to leave this in the hands of the regulator … They will make an assessment with lots of data that is not currently in the public domain on efficacy and on safety,” Whitty added.

Rollout next month

U.S. criticism

AstraZeneca response

Shares slide

Shares of AstraZeneca dipped again on Friday and have fallen by nearly 7% since its trial results were released on Monday morning.

Jim O’Neill, former chief economist at Goldman Sachs and now the chair of U.K. think tank Chatham House, said he hoped the confusion over the results didn’t “muddy the waters.” He mentioned anti-vaccination activists, a vocal fringe who oppose inoculations. They believe, contrary to scientific evidence, that ingredients in a vaccine can cause harm to the body.

“It is a bit confusing in my opinion that presenting these things via press releases without the full detail that the vaccine community kind of wants … is not specially helpful given the sort of general, the sort of anti-vax crowd that are out there,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Friday.

“The second thing is that it does seem … that the regulatory authorities here (in the U.K.) don’t seem to share the same concerns that are being openly expressed in the States.”

—CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this article.



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2020-11-27 04:07:07

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