The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the use of the Astrazeneca/Oxford University vaccine for use by all countries around the world, with a 8 to 12 week interval between doses.
In a major snub to European countries that have applied age limits to the vaccine, WHO said there was enough evidence to recommend vaccines to “all people 18 years and above without an upper age limit”.
“The results of the efficacy 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,” said Alejandro Cravioto, chair of WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (Sage).
Cravioto also said there was “significant evidence” the Astrazeneca vaccine proved effective in preventing severe disease from the B117 variant of coronavirus, also known as the South African variant.
It comes after South Africa yesterday halted the rollout of the Astrazeneca jab and threatened to sell its supplies, following “disappointing” trials results showing its efficacy against the country’s new Covid variant.
One and half million doses of the jab had been bought for healthcare workers in South Africa, who were due to receive their first injections this week.
But WHO said the trial data was “too small” to limit its rollout in any countries, and “did not allow the assessment of vaccine efficacy against severe infection”.
The most recent phase of studies on the Astrazeneca vaccine was carried out on 2,000 people whose average age was 31.
“Considering all these factors… there is no reason not to recommend its use even in countries that have circulation of the variant,” said Cravioto.
In a report published this afternoon, WHO concluded that the Astrazeneca jab is 63 per cent effective at preventing Covid-19 symptoms.
The efficacy is expected to be higher at preventing severe illness and close to 100 per cent in preventing Covid-related fatalities.
Britain has prioritised use of the jab in its vaccine rollout, which has so far immunised more than 12.7m people.