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WHO Recommends Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine For All Ages And Backs UK's 12-Week Gap Between Doses

The WHO have said the Oxford/AstraZeneca version of the Covid vaccine is suitable for use in all age groups (PA)

3 min read

The World Health Organisation has recommended the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for Covid-19 for all age groups, including the over-65s.

They also gave the UK government’s vaccine strategy a boost after backing increasing the time between first and second doses to 12 weeks.

In a briefing today, the chairman of the WHO's advisory group, Dr Alejandro Cravioto, said a longer gap is "associated with greater vaccine efficacy" and will reach more people.

Cravioto said the two doses should be given 4 to 12 weeks apart, ideally between 8 and 12 weeks apart, for best protection from the disease.

It comes after several European countries have said they will not give the AstraZeneca version to the over-65s, suggesting there was not enough data to say it was effective in the elderly, despite it being approved for all ages by the European Medicines Agency.

There have been fears the Oxford vaccine may not be suitable for tackling the new South African variant of Covid-19, but the WHO's Cravioto said: "There is no reason not to recommend its use even in countries that have circulation of the variant."

He added: "In the case of the data coming from clinical trials, we have seen that there was a small participation of people over 65 years of age.

"However, the results of the efficacy estimate for persons up to 65 and older, had a wide confidence interval.

"And therefore we feel that the response of this group cannot be any different to groups that are of a younger age.

"Since we have identified people over 65 was one of our priority groups in the prioritisation roadmap... looking at the safety and immunogenicity data... we recommend for the vaccine to be used in people 18 years and above, without an upper age limit.

"That means people over 65 years of age should be given the vaccination."

The news was welcomed by the scientists involved in the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with Professor Sarah Gilbert, who designed it, saying: "It is excellent news that the WHO has recommended use of the SARS CoV-2 vaccine first produced in Oxford.

"This decision paves the way to more widespread use of the vaccine to protect people against Covid-19 and gain control of the pandemic."

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said: "The new guidance from WHO is an important milestone in extending access to the Oxford-AZ vaccine to all corners of the world.

"And providing further endorsement that after rigorous scrutiny by the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts the vaccine can be used to help protect populations from the coronavirus pandemic."

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