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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Macron and the EU were too quick to mock Britain’s pandemic strategy and the AstraZeneca vaccine

“We have an extremely dramatic situation. This is going to exceed everything we have been through so far,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her health minister warned that beds are vanishing so fast that it may become necessary to ship patients to hospitals outside the country. The whole population will soon be either “vaccinated, recovered, or dead”, he said.

“Around 100 of the 400 rural and urban districts are down to just one ICU bed, and 50 counties have none at all,” said the German Hospital Federation. Triage is on the lips of doctors in Saxony and Thuringia.

“The number of intensive care patients is going to rise massively, and there is nothing we can do any longer in the coming days to stop it, even if we had the hardest of lockdowns,” it said.

This is an extraordinary state of affairs since Germany can justly claim to have one of the highest ratios of ICU beds per head in the world, along with lockdown Austria as it happens. The fact that even this formidable line of defence is near collapse shows how lethally unpredictable this delta wave has become, but it also shows that Europe made a criminal error in rubbishing and rejecting the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s chief executive, came very close to saying on the BBC Today programme that the startling divergence in hospitalisation rates is because the messenger RNA vaccines mostly used in Europe – Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna – offer less protection where it really matters.

There has always been a misleading focus on ‘efficacy’ rates. The mRNA vaccines score better under this quick and dirty measure of antibodies, catching the ‘frontline fighters’ that act fastest. It is much harder to determine the crucial levels of cell memory protection from the heavy artillery: B and T cells. These take time to kick into action but they last longer are a critical part of the defence.

“Everybody focussed on antibodies but these antibodies decline over time. What remains is the T-cell response,” he said.

“This vaccine has been shown to stimulate a T-cell response to a higher degree in older people. We haven’t seen a lot of hospitalisations in the UK. A lot of infections to be sure, but what matters is how ill you are,” he said.

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