tv Ros Atkins on... What Happened... BBC News March 20, 2021 6:45pm-7:01pm GMT
hailed as a vital achievement, now finds itself in a scientific and political storm because from the start it was also seen as being particularly important. this is a really significant moment in the fight against this pandemic because the vaccine is the way out and the approval of the oxford—astrazeneca vaccine brings forward the date at which we're going to bring this pandemic to an end. the leading immunologist professor helen fletcher told us in december: so we have a vaccine that is relatively cheap, easy to store, vital to the global roll—out, and which the uk, european regulators, and the who all say is fine to use.
so why is this happening? france, germany and italy are among several countries to suspend the use of the astrazeneca vaccine over safety fears. in the last ten days, these european countries have all restricted the use of astrazeneca's vaccine. many have completely suspended its use, and all have acted on concerns about blood clotting, despite there being no evidence to link this vaccine and blood clotting. and the european regulator could not have been clearer. this vaccine is safe and effective in preventing covid—19 and its benefits continue to be far greater than its risks. so we have european countries out of sync with the european regulator. and these aren't the first issues that astrazeneca has faced, farfrom it. first of all, the company initially put out confusing statements about how effective this vaccine is. some studies reported around 90%, others 62% one headline at the time
read: here's another: the article goes on to say: doubts were created and they started to take hold. weeks later, those doubts grew after the french president emanuel macron intervened saying: well, mr macron was wrong on that. there was a shortage of data for the over 65s but everything suggested the vaccine would be effective. despite that, some countries restricted astrazeneca for older people, then later those restrictions were lifted. and by this point, a perception was developing. here is the bbc�*s europe correspondentjean mackenzie reporting that "belgium's medical adviser has told me that people who
have nicknamed it the aldi vaccine — after the supermarket — because they see it as the budget option." and here is one woman at a vaccination centre in berlin this week. translation: it doesn't exactly | inspire a lot of confidence, you | know, because there is also a lot of discussion already at work, do i get vaccinated or not? and this evidence isn't just anecdotal. this french survey was conducted as the suspensions were announced. only 20% of people said they had confidence in astrazeneca. for the pfizer vaccine it's 52%. and let's remember the context here. while confidence in astrazeneca falls in europe, infections still rise. these are empty streets in rome after much of italy went back into lockdown. the situation�*s worsening in italy and elsewhere, as my colleague nick beake has reported. in prague, in paris, and once again in bergamo in northern italy, covid patients gasp for air. the nightmare prospect of a third wave in europe is now real.
as well as this, there is the issue of the speed of europe's vaccine roll—out. as you can see here, eu member states are vaccinating far more slowly than the uk and the us. infection rates, hospitalisations, vaccination speed, the astrazeneca jab could help address all of this. but as the uk's deputy chief medical officer put it this week. vaccines don't save lives if they're in fridges. they only save lives if they're in arms. so what is going on here? how did we get to the point that this vaccine is not being used as much as it could be? well, i have four possible explanations. pr, process, politics and first patients. norwegian patients. the clusters of patients that we are talking about are not the more common clots like the brain thrombosis, these are very rare and severe cases with critical outcome in a very young population where
this is not commonly seen. the norwegian point being that these rare blood clots in a very small number of patients warrant a suspension. but to be clear, these incidents are no more frequent than they would be in a regular population sample. there's no proven connection at all. nonetheless, norway decided to act and that influenced other countries. and if that's the first factor, the second is politics, an awful lot of politics. this was a warning from the eu this week. we want to see reciprocity and proportionality in exports, and we are ready to use whatever tool we need to deliver on that. this is all about whether astrazeneca doses produced in the uk are being fairly distributed to the eu. and if you want a measure of the political scale of this threat to block exports, well, europe hasn't really done anything like this since an oil crisis in 1973. and in some quarters it's not gone down well. politico quotes one uk cabinet minister saying:
well, the eu would have none of that. but make no mistake, every vaccine roll—out is political. the political pressure to get it right is immense. and astrazeneca finds itself in the middle of broader political tensions between the uk and the eu, and european tensions around the vaccine roll—out. just have a look at this. here we have the head of italy's medicine authority on those astrazeneca suspension, saying: astrazeneca suspensions, saying: or this is a leading expert on the impact of pharmaceutical drugs on populations. once one of them starts doing it, then they get a collective anxiety. they don't want to be standing out. they don't want to be the only ones going on delivering it. the idea being that if an influential country like germany takes action, it becomes politically uncomfortable for france, italy and others to be out of step. decisions, good and bad,
can quickly be amplified. and to some extent that's the nature of the eu's political structure, it's one part unified, one part a collection of member states who influence each other. and if those political currents have impacted astrazeneca, there's another factor too. process. tom nuttall is the economist's berlin correspondent. he tweeted: keep tom's tweeted in mind as we listen to emmanuel macron. translation: we are led here by a simple guide, i informed by science and the relevant authorities, and also doing so within the framework of a european strategy. that word framework is crucial. frameworks and processes are crucial to regulating medicines. but at a time of maximum pressure, they risk being inflexible and slow, and crucially they also risk
influencing what people think of this vaccine, which brings me to my fourth factor, pr. applause this is the prime minister of thailand having an astrazeneca jab after the country ended its suspension of it. he said he wanted to boost confidence in the vaccine. and the who encourages this kind of thing. this is, though, perhaps a tactic for a simpler time. can photo ops really be any match for the tsunami of information online? because we know that once doubts exist they spread rapidly. here is a senior us epidemiologist michael osterholm. this is part of the challenge we have of vaccine confidence. if i tell you that vaccine a or drug a is involved with something and it gets, for example, on the internet, suddenly you will have a of people saying, "look it, i took that same drug, or i took that same vaccine, and now look what happened to me." regulators, politicians and companies aren'tjust taking decisions about science, they're
taking decisions about information. and as we consider how astrazeneca got to this point, i think of dr tedros�*s famous line. this one. no one is safe until everyone is safe. this is a global problem which requires a global solution, and the astrazeneca vaccine was, and is, central to that solution. that makes it disorientating when we see the point it's reached in europe. but this short clip from dr anthony cox perhaps offers us a clue as to how to make sense of this. this isn't erring on the side of caution, it's throwing caution to the wind. perhaps it's both. science regulation is cautious, with good reason. but place this caution into a world where misinformation and a virus are out of control and caution designed to keep people safe risks having the opposite effect. astrazeneca is caught right in the middle of that. this is mene pangalos from the company. this has been, for me, probably the toughest thing i've ever worked on in terms of
the goldfish bowl environment that you're in, where every single thing is scrutinised, politicised, turned around, misrepresented. that was probably inevitable. this vaccine's becoming a real—time lesson in how our systems and our politics are struggling to cope with this pandemic, and how doubt and suspicion are easily created and very hard to erase. it's a lesson being learned the hard way. hello. it was mixed fortunes today but for most places tomorrow i think it will be dry and there will be sunshine around as well. the best sunshine around as well. the best sunshine today was across parts of eastern scotland and the north—east of england, beautiful blue skies here in northumberland, are much warmer day than it has been in the north—east of england as well, we
saw temperatures of 17 degrees in bridlington, the highest in aberdeenshire, 18 degrees, after a frosty start. quite chilly with the cloud in merseyside and in parts of kent. these areas may be warmer tomorrow where we have had those high temperatures today, temperatures will not be as high tomorrow. the higher temperatures and sunshine came ahead of this weather front, and sunshine came ahead of this weatherfront, very and sunshine came ahead of this weather front, very weak, and sunshine came ahead of this weatherfront, very weak, not producing much rain at all. it is moving southwards, mind you, and as it does so it introduces slightly different air. this is cooler air for tomorrow so despite some sunshine around, temperatures probably not as high as they were today, expecting 17 degrees. this is where we have the weak weather front at the moment producing light rain or drizzle, nothing very much, do continues to move southwards, behind that we will find clearer skies away from the north—west of scotland. where we have the clearest skies for longest, tayside, fife and lothian temperatures could get close to freezing, should be milder than it was last night in the south—east of england. towards the south—west of england. towards the south—west of england and south wales tomorrow morning, still cloudy and quite damp and we have more cloud coming into
the north west of scotland. but otherwise dry, some sunshine breaking through and this guy should brighten in the south—west of england and south wales in the afternoon. the winds will be quite light but remember slightly cooler air so temperatures will be 10—12 , chillier than that in norfolk as well as the north—west of scotland. we still have high pressure in charge of our weather, hence the dry weather, and hopefully some sunshine as well. for the time being it is keeping the weather fronts at bay in the atlantic. another quiet day on monday. we have more cloud towards the north—west of the uk. may be some dampness in the breeze in the north—west of scotland. but the best of the sunshine probably in eastern areas and those temperatures 11—13 , new normal for this time of year. now, moving ahead quickly into tuesday, similar sort of picture, probably you will notice a bit more of a breeze picking up on tuesday and this band of rain is approaching the north—west of the uk. but again those temperatures are 11 or 12 degrees. high pressure in charge for the start of the week, that gets pushed away into continental europe,
allowing that band of rain to sweep across the uk from the north—west and it opens the door to more of an atlantic airflow as and it opens the door to more of an atlantic air flow as the week goes on. lower pressure, more unsettled weather. but that is as the week goes on. quite start to the week, from wednesday onwards it turns a bit more unsettled, most of the rain towards the north—west of the uk, much drier in the south—east.
this is bbc news. i'm lukwesa burak. the headlines at 7. reaching a milestone — half of all adults in the uk have now had a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine — the health secretary hails �*a phenomenal achievement�*. the vaccination programme is our route out of the pandemic. it will help us to protect people and we know that these vaccines protect you and we also know that they protect those around you. europe braces itself for a third wave of coronavirus infections — with fresh lockdowns in france and poland. government science advisors warn that summer holidays overseas are "extremely unlikely" this year because of the risk of travellers bringing coronavirus variants back to the uk. protesters opposed to the coronavirus lockdown march through central london.