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WHO panel recommends wide use of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine

A World Health Organization panel has recommended wide use of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine including in countries where the South African variant of the coronavirus may reduce its efficacy.

UPDATED: February 11, 2021 07:19 IST

Even as South Africa halted the use of AstraZenaca-Oxford vaccine for not being affective against Covid-19 mild and moderate cases, a World Health Organisation panel has recommended it’s use.

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 Organization panel said on Wednesday.

The benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University outweigh any risks and the shot should recommended for use, including in people aged 65 and older, the WHO pandel said.

South Africa this week had 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 it expected by mid-February to finalise its review of the shot for emergency use approval under COVAX agreement

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.

WHO’s immunisation expert Kate O’Brien said the agency was talking with experts and ministry officials in South Africa and providing advice.

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.

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.

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