Advertisement

WHO panel OKs AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot for seniors, use against variants

Click to play video: 'WHO panel recommends AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine even in countries with South Africa variant' WHO panel recommends AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine even in countries with South Africa variant
WATCH ABOVE: AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and can be deployed across all age groups, including in countries with the South African variant of the coronavirus – Feb 10, 2021

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and should be deployed widely across all age groups, including in countries where the South African variant of the coronavirus may reduce its efficacy, a World Health Organization panel said on Wednesday.

In interim recommendations on the shot, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) panel said the vaccine should be given in two doses with an interval of 8 to 12 weeks, and should also be used in people aged 65 and older.

Even in countries such as South Africa, where questions have been raised about the AstraZeneca vaccine’s efficacy against a newly-emerged variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, “there is no reason not to recommend its use”, SAGE’s chair, Alejandro Cravioto, told a briefing.

Read more: ‘Concerning’ Brazil COVID-19 variant found in Canada. What you need to know

Story continues below advertisement

“We have made a recommendation that even if there is a reduction in the possibility of this vaccine having a full impact in its protection capacity, especially against severe disease, there is no reason not to recommend its use even in countries that have circulation of the variant,” he said.

South Africa this week paused part of its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after data from a small trial showed it did not protect against mild to moderate illness from the 501Y.V2 variant of the coronavirus now dominant in the country.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

The WHO said those preliminary findings “highlight the urgent need for a coordinated approach for surveillance and evaluation of variants” and their impact on vaccine efficacy.

Click to play video: 'Concerns about Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for seniors' Concerns about Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for seniors
Concerns about Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for seniors – Feb 5, 2021

“The WHO will continue to monitor the situation (and) as new data become available, recommendations will be updated accordingly,” it said.

Story continues below advertisement

AstraZeneca‘s COVID vaccine is now in the final stages of review for a World Health Organization emergency-use listing and could receive approval by mid-February, the United Nations health agency further stated.

In a joint briefing with the WHO’s SAGE expert panel on immunisation, officials recommended the shot should be widely used, emphasising that its benefits outweigh any risks.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: WHO encouraged by AstraZeneca vaccine results, but needs further analysis' Coronavirus: WHO encouraged by AstraZeneca vaccine results, but needs further analysis
Coronavirus: WHO encouraged by AstraZeneca vaccine results, but needs further analysis – Nov 23, 2020

“We hope this will be followed very soon by the emergency-use listing of this product,” the WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told the briefing.

Asked why the WHO was pushing ahead with recommendations on using the vaccine even before much-anticipated data from a large U.S. clinical trial of the shot, Alejandro Cravioto, chair of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization, said the U.S. data was “not expected until into March”.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: Here’s what the WHO’s coronavirus experts learned from their visit to Wuhan

“We have thousands of people dying from the infection, in many countries of the world, daily,” he said.

“Anything we can do to use a product that might reduce that is totally justified, even if the information… is not (as) complete as we like.”

Reporting by John Miller, Stephanie Nebehay and Kate Kelland, with files from Global News

 

Sponsored content