WHO advisory group declares AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine safe for all adults

The group found the vaccine has a 22% efficacy in preventing mild to moderate COVID-19 caused by the second variant of the coronavirus.

FILE: The University of Oxford and drug manufacturer AstraZeneca have developed a COVID-19 vaccine. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG – The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (Sage) on immunisation declared the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as safe to be administered to all adults.

The advisory group, which advises the World Health Organization (WHO), released interim results on the use of the vaccine on Wednesday.

It gave the green light just days after South Africa temporarily halted rolling out the vaccine based on findings of a small, local clinical trial.

READ: SA halts rollout of AstraZeneca vaccine over efficacy against second variant

The group found that the vaccine had a 22% efficacy in preventing mild to moderate COVID-19 caused by the second variant of the coronavirus.

Other countries have also raised alarm over the use of the vaccine in people older than 65.

The advisory group's chairperson, Dr Alejandro Cravioto, said that clinical trials so far had limited data on participants of this cohort.

READ: AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine efficacy and expiry dates

“Based on the current evidence, Sage recommends that this vaccine should be administered in two doses of 0.5ml each, with an interval of between four and 12 weeks between the first and the second dose.”

WHO director of immunisation, vaccines and biologicals, Dr Katherine O'Brien, pointed to a gap in the local study on evidence for severe forms of COVID-19.

“We have an absence of evidence, from that trial, about whether or not the AZ product has efficacy against severe disease, hospitilisation and death; and that is the outcome of most interest and most impact for early rollout of vaccines.”

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