Oxford's Covid vaccine is effective in all adults including over-65s say WHO
THE Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is effective in all adults – including over-65s – the World Health Organisation announced today.
It comes after EU leaders repeatedly made baseless claims about its efficacy in the elderly population.
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French President Emmanuel Macron infamously said the jab “doesn’t work” on people over 65 – despite the jab being approved for use across all age groups by European regulators.
The WHO today backed the jab for use across all age groups along with Sage, and endorsed the UK’s strategy of delaying doses for up to twelve weeks – which had also been criticised.
The encouraging decision also follows the publication of a study which cast doubt on the jab's ability to fight against the South Africa Covid strain.
But the chair of Sage Dr Alejandro Cravioto said the WHO recommends the use of the vaccine in places where "variants are present".
The WHO found:
- Use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is effective on all adults over 18
- Two doses four to 12 weeks apart is accepted but doses eight to 12 weeks apart is recommended
- The vaccine can be used in places where variants are present
- The majority of side effects are mild to moderate
- There is an efficacy of 63 per cent from 15 days after second jab
He said: "Based on the current evidence Sage recommends the vaccine should be administered in two doses with an interval of between four and 12 weeks for the second dose."
"Extending to eight and 12 weeks is a much better time frame for a better dose, so our recommendation is to use an interval of at least eight to 12 weeks.
"We recommend it for use 18 years and above with no upper age limit."
They found the immune response in older people was "almost the same" as in younger people, which led to their confidence in the jab for all ages.
Their report found the jab gives an efficacy of 63 per cent from 15 days after second jab.
And crucially, for people over-65 in the trials, it gave 52 per cent efficacy15 days on from both doses.
Dr Kate O’Brien, director of Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, at the WHO, said: “Sage considered modelling data and that revealed that even when the hypothetical efficacy drops down as low as 10 per cent, it’s still the right thing to do – to immunise older adults with a low efficacy vaccine because of the high risk of severe disease and mortality in that age group.”
Earlier this week South African research on about 2,000 people found the efficacy fell to 22 per cent against mild to moderate disease caused by the variant.
It led to a pause on the rollout of Oxford vaccines, over fears it may not work as well against the mutation.
But AstraZeneca said it believes its vaccine could protect against severe disease.
The British drugmaker said the neutralising antibody activity of the jab is equivalent to that of other Covid-19 vaccines that have demonstrated protection against severe disease.
An AstraZeneca spokesman added: "Oxford University and AstraZeneca have started adapting the vaccine against this variant and will advance rapidly through clinical development so that it is ready for Autumn delivery should it be needed."
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi spoke out after the claims the Oxford inoculation was less effective against the variation.
We recommend it for use 18 years and above with no upper age limit.
He said that through its own trials, AstraZeneca is "confident that it does effectively deal with serious illness, serious disease and hospitalisation".
And speaking to the BBC today, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam warned against putting too much weight on the small study, saying the vaccine blocks serious illness, which is the key.
He said: "It would be a big public health win if the vaccines just stop people going into hospital, that would be a public health victory.
"The thing that is going to kill people in the next one to two months in the UK is the problem we have with our own circulating virus, the Kent variant as we now know it, and we know the vaccines are effective against the Kent variant."
It comes a day after it was announced the UK now has two new Covid variants after health officials re-classified the recently discovered bugs.
The Bristol and Liverpool strains emerged last week and cases in both cities, as well as a cluster in Manchester, are being closely monitored by Public Health England.
The Government's emergency virus group Nervtag, officially named the Bristol variant – with 14 cases there and four in Manchester – a "variant of concern".
This variant has developed directly from the Kent strain and now includes a mutation called E484K, which allows the virus to evade vaccines more easily.
NERVTAG also branded a variant which caused 55 cases in Liverpool a "variant under investigation".
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