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WHO provides guidance on use of Oxford vaccine

The WHO's guidelines for the Oxford vaccine differ from some countries' approach. Yihang Fang reports.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) has produced guidelines for the emergency use of the coronavirus vaccine jointly developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

They recommend that two standard doses of the vaccine should be given at 8- to 12-week intervals, for people aged 18 and older. This is the current strategy adopted by the United Kingdom. Clinical trials have shown that this dosing regimen is safe and effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

In particular, the WHO believes that the vaccine is safe and efficacious even among older adults. However, some countries have recommended the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine only to those aged below 65. Multiple European countries, such as Germany, Austria, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal do not recommend the vaccine for older adults due to insufficient trial data.

Andrew Pollard, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity, and Chief Investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said in an Oxford University article, “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.”

Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology, and Chief Investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, added, “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.”

The new guidance is a crucial step forward in achieving the University and AstraZeneca’s goal of providing global access to the vaccine, which is being made available on a not-for-profit basis during the pandemic. 

The vaccine is easily manufactured, transported and stored at domestic fridge temperature (2-8 degrees C). It can be easily administered in existing healthcare settings, allowing for the vaccine to be deployed rapidly around the world. In contrast, the vaccine developed by Pfizer has to be stored at a temperature of -70 degrees C, which is more challenging logistically.

Image: Steven Cornfeld via unsplash.com

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