EU regulator authorizes AstraZeneca vaccine for all adults

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FILE - In this Jan. 2, 2021 file photo a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca is checked as they arrive at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, England. The European Medicines Agency is expected on Friday Jan. 29, 2021 to authorize use of the vaccine AstraZeneca developed with Oxford University. It would be the third cleared for use in the EU, after the BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. (Gareth Fuller/Pool via AP, File)

BERLIN – Regulators authorized AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine for use in adults throughout the European Union on Friday, amid criticism the bloc is not moving fast enough to vaccinate its population.

The European Medicines Agency's expert committee unanimously recommended the vaccine to be used in people 18 and over, although concerns had been raised this week that not enough data exist to prove it works in older people, and some countries indicated they may not give it to the elderly.

The shot is the third COVID-19 vaccine given the green light by the European Medicines Agency after ones by Pfizer and Moderna. The EMA's decision requires final approval from the European Commission, a process that occurred swiftly with the other vaccines.

Hours later, the EU gave its backing for the vaccine's use throughout its 27 nations.

“I expect the company to deliver the 400 million doses as agreed. We will keep on doing all we can to secure vaccines for Europeans, our neighbours & partners worldwide," tweeted EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

With trials showing about 60% efficacy, the vaccine appears to offer less protection than ones already authorized, but experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50% could help stop outbreaks.

The agency recommended the vaccine's use by older people, despite limited data regarding its efficacy in people over 55, citing the immune responses seen and experience with other vaccines.

“At least some protection is expected,” Bruno Sepodes, of the EMA’s expert committee, said Friday at a briefing. He acknowledged that "the exact level of protection cannot be estimated for the time being.”