The United Kingdom on Wednesday defended the government’s move to roll out a vaccine developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to all age groups, reported Reuters.

Countries such as France, Belgium and Germany have advised against giving the Oxford vaccine to the elderly. French President Emmanuel Macron had on Friday said that the vaccine is “quasi-ineffective” among people over 65.

Oxford’s vaccine trial chief Andrew Pollard said that the shots produced good immune responses in older people even if there was lack of data about its exact efficacy.

“The point is that we have rather less data in older adults, which is why people have less certainty about the level of protection,” Pollard told BBC radio. “But we have good immune responses in older adults very similar to younger adults, the protection that we do see is in exactly the same direction, and of a similar magnitude.”

On the statement made by the French president, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the remarks were “strongly disputed” by the developers of the vaccine and the British government.

“My view is that we should listen to the scientists... and the science on this one was already pretty clear, and then with this publication overnight is absolutely crystal clear that the Oxford vaccine not only works but works well,” Hancock told BBC Radio. The study, however, does not provide direct evidence on the efficacy of the vaccine for elderly people.

According to the Oxford study concerned, which has not been formally published yet, the vaccine reduces transmission of the coronavirus, reported BBC. This is the first time any vaccine has shown that it can slow down the transmission of the infection.

“This is a really encouraging study - THANK YOU to the teams at University of Oxford and AstraZeneca,” Hancock tweeted. “Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic & we are making fantastic progress vaccinating the most vulnerable.”

The British government also used the results of the study to vindicate its vaccination strategy, according to AFP. “It does show the world that the Oxford jab works, it works well,” Hancock said, “It slows transmission by around two-thirds, so it categorically supports the strategy that we’re undertaking.”

The study suggests that the vaccine may have a “substantial” effect to contain the spread of the infection. It means that each person who is vaccinated will indirectly protect other people too.

Besides reducing the transmission, the vaccine offered 76% effective protection from a single dose for three months. When the second dose was given, the study found that the level of protection from the vaccine increases to 82%. So far, the UK has given the first dose of the vaccine to about 9.6 million (96 lakh) people.

The UK has so far reported 38,63,757 Covid-19 cases and 1,08,225 deaths, according to John Hopkins University.