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AstraZeneca jab is safe and effective, says WHO

The panel suggested that the vaccine should be given in 2 doses with an interval of 8-12 weeks, and should also be used in people aged 65 and older

Reuters   |   Geneva   |   Published 11.02.21, 01:23 AM

AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective and should be deployed widely, including in countries where the South African variant of the coronavirus may reduce its efficacy, a World Health Organisation 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.

“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.

“We have thousands of people dying from the infection, in many countries of the world, daily,” Cravioto said. “Anything we can do to use a product that might reduce that is totally justified.” The WHO said it expected by mid February to finalise its review.

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.

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

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