The World Health Organisation (WHO) have suggested that the Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine can be safely used for all age groups, including those aged 65 and over
This approval comes after a potent observation made by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said on 29 January that: “everything points to thinking it is quasi-ineffective on people older than 65, some say those 60 years or older.”
Political leaders in France and Germany have been concerned at the relative lack of data for impact of the vaccine in this age group, with Belgium even declaring that the AstraZeneca vaccine would only be given to under 55s.
WHO believes vaccine will work on over 65s
The WHO report on available AstraZeneca data found that the vaccine would work on the highly vulnerable category of 65 years and over.
The organisation commented that: “Immune responses induced by the vaccine in older persons are well documented and similar to those in other age groups.
“This suggests it is likely that the vaccine will be found to be efficacious in older persons.”
There is currently ongoing clinical trials and population data expected to supplement what the drugmaker can say about impact on this age group – but the signs are pointing to efficacy so far.
The report was complementary about use of AstraZeneca in people with comorbidities like diabetes, suggesting that they should be given a vaccine as a high priority as there is a higher risk of death in this group.
12 week intervals between doses also get greenlight
On the controversial dosing intervals, the UK is using a policy of 12 weeks between AstraZeneca doses. It was found that a second dose after three months creates a protection level of 82.4%, while the first dose can hold at 76% for that waiting period.
The WHO report confirmed that this was the best strategy, advocating that countries adopt a similar policy: “In light of the observation that two-dose efficacy and immunogenicity increase with a longer interdose interval, WHO recommends an interval of 8 to 12 weeks between the doses.”
What about mutations?
On the use of AstraZeneca against mutations, the WHO hesitantly suggest that the vaccine should continue to be used in countries where “variants are present” while researchers work to understand more about local strains and changing vaccine efficacies.
On Sunday (7 February) the South African Government stopped use of the AstraZeneca doses, after a study of 2,000 volunteers showed that transmission of the mutation was continuing even with the vaccine.
This move raised a lot of concerns about just how effective any vaccine would remain in a landscape of ever-changing mutations.
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