GENEVA: The AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 vaccine can be used for people aged over 65, and also where coronavirus variants of concern are circulating, WHO experts said Wednesday, soothing fears about the jab.
The World Health Organization’s 15-member Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) issued interim recommendations for when and how to use the two-shot vaccine, which has yet to receive WHO emergency use authorisation.
The announcement came after the vaccine suffered several setbacks, raising questions about whether it was appropriate to use it on older people, or in places where a variant of the virus first found in South Africa is circulating.
SAGE chief Alejandro Cravioto acknowledged the lack of data on the vaccine’s efficacy for people aged over 65, which has prompted a number of countries to withhold recommending its use in older people — who are by far the most vulnerable to the virus.
But, he told journalists, “we feel that the response of this group cannot be any different from groups of a younger age”.
SAGE, he said, recommends “for the vaccine to be used for 18 years and above without an upper age limit”.
He said the experts were eagerly awaiting more specific data on the efficacy of the vaccine in people over 65, but said it “would not be appropriate” to wait with its recommendations.
“We have thousands of people dying,” he stressed.