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AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine still restricted, despite WHO assurances

Published on 12/02/21 at 11:46am

Several European countries have continued to impose age restrictions on their rollouts of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine, despite WHO’s repeated assurances that it is safe and effective.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) in the Republic of Ireland have maintained the decision not to offer the vaccine to anyone over the age of 70, while health authorities in Malta have chosen to continue to restrict use of the shot to under-55s only.

Poland, who previously announced that only adults aged 18 to 60 would receive the vaccine, have raised their age limit slightly, but have still chosen not to administer the shot to anyone over 65.

Many more European countries are also restricting the vaccine for older people, including Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden.

This news comes despite WHO recommending the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine for all adults over 18.

In a briefing on Wednesday, Dr Alejandro Cravioto, Director at WHO, said the vaccine did not require an upper age limit. In a statement on their website earlier this week, WHO also moved to dispel the results of a small trial that suggested the Oxford University-AstraZeneca shot was ineffective against the South African variant of the virus.

The NIAC in Ireland decided to maintain their stance after determining that the WHO study found very similar results to the EMA trial, on which their original decision was made.

Professor Karina Butler, Chair of the NIAC, explained the committee’s decision to Kildare Nationalist: “The [WHO study] efficacy rates were broadly similar as had been reported by the EMA, with overall efficacy for the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine reported at 63%. At the EMA, it came out at 59%, so there’s not real difference.

“It was welcome to see the report, but there was nothing in it that was substantially different.”

The Oxford University-Astra Zeneca jab continues to be rolled out to over-65s in the UK, where more than 13.5 million vaccinations have been administered using both that and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Jack Goddard

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