WHO reviews AstraZeneca vaccine, questions about effectiveness

GENEVA | Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) are examining, on Monday, the anti-COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford, at a time when its effectiveness for the elderly and against the southern variant is questioned. African virus, South Africa even going so far as to suspend its immunization campaign.

• Read also: All the developments of the pandemic

• Read also: “Limited efficacy” of AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine against the South African variant

The AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine, which the United Kingdom was the first to administer massively to its population in December, has already been approved by several other countries and by the European Union. But some governments have preferred to recommend it only for those under 65, or even 55, for lack of sufficient data on its effectiveness for older people.

And on Sunday, South Africa suspended the start of its COVID-19 vaccination program, which was due to take place in the coming days with one million Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccines, after a study found “limited” effectiveness against the local variant of the virus.

According to the initial results of this study, this vaccine is only 22% effective against moderate forms of the South African variant. No results are yet available on its effectiveness against severe forms.

Transmitted to previously vaccinated

“The first results seem to confirm that the mutation of the virus detected in South Africa can be transmitted to the already vaccinated population,” said a statement on this study from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, which has not yet been examined by peers.

“We believe that our vaccine will still protect against serious forms of the disease,” said for its part a spokesperson for AstraZeneca, contacted by AFP.

On Monday, the WHO’s strategic committee of immunization experts met by videoconference to make interim recommendations on the use of this vaccine. “Particular attention will be given to the discussion on the use of the vaccine on older adults,” says the WHO agenda.

With an average efficacy of 70% for the time being, the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine is less convincing, for the moment, than those of Pfizer / BioNTech or Moderna, whose efficacy exceeds 90%. But this vaccine uses a more traditional technology than these two competitors, which makes it less expensive, easier to store since it can be stored in refrigerators and not at very low temperatures, and therefore more suitable for massive vaccination campaigns. .

The novel coronavirus pandemic has killed at least 2.31 million people worldwide since the WHO office in China reported the onset of the disease in late December 2019, according to an AFP report from official sources Sunday at 11am GMT (6am in Quebec). More than 105.7 million cases have been diagnosed.

Deconfinement in Israel

However, some countries see a glimmer of hope. Israel, which has already vaccinated more than 40% of its population, began to emerge from its third lockdown on Sunday. Israelis can now move beyond a kilometer from their homes, “non-essential” businesses, nature reserves and national parks have reopened, as have hotel rooms.

“I informed my clients that we were back to work. The customers will arrive soon and we hope that this is the end of this saga, ”rejoiced Sunday morning Eli Aroas, a 58-year-old barber in Jerusalem, while waiting to be able to bring out his scissors and clippers.

In neighboring Jordan, hundreds of thousands of students returned to school on Sunday after a year of closure, thanks to a lull in the epidemic.

“I am very happy, because I saw my friends and my teacher again. We had lessons, we chatted, we played and we ate together, ”said Mecca, 7, a student at a Muslim college for girls in Amman. “At home, I was bored, being at school is much better”.

Austria also eased its confinement on Monday, with the reopening of schools, museums and shops. Primary schools are also reopening in Denmark and the Netherlands. In Quebec, it is museums and “non-essential” businesses that can once again welcome the public.

In the Czech Republic, which has one of the worst death rates in Europe in relation to the number of inhabitants, the Minister of Labor, Jana Malacova, estimated on Sunday that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were worse than those of the Second World War.

“Even WWII didn’t cause as much disruption as COVID. The children went to school, ”said the minister. COVID-19 “is a disease that put the country at a standstill for a year, the whole economy is struggling,” she said.

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