“It’s the right thing to do” WHO okays use of AstraZeneca vaccine to persons over 65On Wednesday, the World Health Organization backed the use of Oxford’s AstraZeneca vaccine. According to the global body, the drug can be administered to people aged over 65, including in situations where the variant is prevalent. The decision was shared through the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization. The panel however recommended an extension of the dose time from 8 to 12 weeks. Given the limited supply nature of the vaccines, the WHO is prioritizing health workers and high-risk groups, 65 years and older.
The 15-member panel gave the direction in spite of growing alarm over the effectiveness of AstraZeneca against the variant of the virus in South Africa. Dr. Alejandro Cravioto, who chairs SAGE, explained that he saw no reason for halting the use of the vaccine in countries where the South African variant is present. He further pointed out the vaccines’ ability to “reduce the levels of severe disease” terming it further as “the right thing to do.”
AstraZeneca has suffered a significant credibility blow after a South African study found its efficacy wanting when delivered to older people. The findings prompted South Africa’s Health Minister, Dr. Zweli Mkhize to review the country’s vaccination rollout, pausing further administration of the vaccine.
At a press conference in Geneva, Dr. Joachim Hombach, the Executive Secretary of SAGE, described the study as “relatively modest” while the WHO’s heald of immunization Dr. Kate O’Brien described the South Africa study as “inconclusive.” She further pointed out that the study did not offer evidence to disprove the efficacy of the vaccine in preventing severe disease, hospitalizations, or death - which are the key areas of interest in the fight against the virus.