The World Health Organisation’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation says the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has an efficacy of 63.09 percent against symptomatic COVID-19 infection.
The SAGE experts made this known in interim recommendations issued on Wednesday for the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
According to them, the longer dose intervals within the eight to 12-week range are associated with greater vaccine efficacy.
On if the vaccine works against new variants of COVID-19, the experts recommend the use of the AZD1222 vaccine according to the WHO Prioritisation Roadmap.
“SAGE has reviewed all available data on the performance of the vaccine in the settings of variants of concern. SAGE currently recommends the use of the AZD1222 vaccine according to the WHO Prioritization Roadmap, even if virus variants are present in a country. Countries should assess the risks and benefits taking into consideration their epidemiological situation.
“Preliminary findings highlight the urgent need for a coordinated approach for surveillance and evaluation of variants and their potential impact on vaccine effectiveness. As new data become available, WHO will update recommendations accordingly,” the experts noted.
The experts, however, said there is no available substantive data related to the impact of AZD1222 on the transmission or viral shedding.
“In the meantime, we must maintain and strengthen public health measures that work: masking, physical distancing, handwashing, respiratory and cough hygiene, avoiding crowds, and ensuring good ventilation,” they advised.
According to them, the vaccine is not recommended for people with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine and it is not recommended for persons younger than 18 years of age pending the results of further studies.
“Vaccination is recommended for persons with comorbidities that have been identified as increasing the risk of severe COVID-19, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes.
“Although further studies are required for persons living with HIV or auto-immune conditions or who are immunocompromised, people in this category who are part of a group recommended for vaccination may be vaccinated after receiving information and counselling.
“Vaccination can be offered to people who have had COVID-19 in the past. But individuals may wish to defer their own COVID-19 vaccination for up to six months from the time of SARS-CoV-2 infection, to allow others who may need the vaccine more urgently to go first.
“Vaccination can be offered to breastfeeding women if they are part of a group prioritized for vaccination. WHO does not recommend discontinuation of breastfeeding after vaccination,” they recommended.
The experts also recommend that priority be given to health workers at high risk of exposure and older people, including those aged 65 or older.
“While pregnancy puts women at higher risk of severe COVID-19, very little data are available to assess vaccine safety in pregnancy.
“Pregnant women may receive the vaccine if the benefit of vaccinating a pregnant woman outweighs the potential vaccine risks.
“For this reason, pregnant women at high risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (e.g. health workers) or who have comorbidities which add to their risk of severe disease, maybe vaccinated in consultation with their health care provider,” they said.
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