WHO backs Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine ‘even if variants present’

WHO backs Oxford vaccine 'even if variants present'
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Daily US Times: The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine even in countries tackling new variants of coronavirus.

Some new variants of the virus appear to make vaccines less effective.

The WHO also says the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can be used in people aged over 65, which some countries have advised against.

Spacing out the two doses, as is happening in the United Kingdom, makes the vaccine more effective, it advises.

The Oxford vaccine is seen as the “vaccine for the world” as it is cheap, can be stored in a standard fridge and can be mass produced.

However, it has attracted controversy about its effectiveness against the new variants of coronavirus, whether it should be used in the elderly and how far apart the doses should be given, due to a lack of data.

The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, known as Sage, has been scrutinising the evidence from vaccine trials.

Its interim recommendations say the Oxford vaccine is 63% effective overall.

Early data from trials in South Africa showed the vaccine was offering “minimal protection” against mild and moderate disease in young people.

Dr Katherine O’Brien, The WHO’s director of immunisation, said the South African study was “inconclusive” and it was “plausible” the vaccine would still prevent severe disease.

A variant of the virus in the country has acquired mutations that seem to help it evade immunity from vaccines and from previous infections.

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