The World Health Organisation (WHO) says its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunisation met recently to review AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine performance against the new COVID-91 variants (B.1.351).
However, recent news stories have highlighted the minimal effectiveness of the vaccine especially against the viral variant B.1.351.
The reports come as bad news for countries like Zimbabwe that are on the market shopping for a suitable and effective vaccine.
If it is true that the vaccine (AstraZeneca) is less effective, that will limit options on the market as countries jostle to inoculate their citizens.
Already, manufacturers of the life-saving jabs are currently overwhelmed by orders, with some said to be behind production target.
In a statement, WHO said the recommendations from the SAGE meeting will be presented to WHO director-general.
“The SAGE on Immunization convened today (8 February) to review evidence on the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, including emerging evidence on performance against viral variants, and to consider the demonstrated impact of the product and the risk-benefit assessment for use cases with limited data.
“These recommendations for use of the AstraZeneca product are being finalised and will be presented to the WHO Director-General on 9 Feb 2021.
“Even though this recent news on effectiveness of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine against the B.1.351 variant is based on a limited study size which focused on low-risk participants and used interval doses that were not optimized for immunogenicity, these results confirm we must do everything possible to reduce the circulation of the virus, prevent infections and reduce the opportunities for the SARS-CoV-2 to evolve resulting in mutations that may reduce the efficacy of existing vaccines,” said the statement.
Vaccine manufacturers must prepare to adjust
Additionally, WHO said “Manufacturers must be prepared to adjust to the SARS-CoV-2 viral evolution, including potentially providing future booster shots and adapted vaccines, if found to be scientifically necessary.
“Trials must be designed and maintained to allow any changes in efficacy to be assessed, and to be of sufficient scale and diversity to enable clear interpretation of results. Enhanced genomic surveillance must be backed by rapid sharing of genetic and meta-data to allow for global coordination and response,” said WHO.
According to the global health body, “Priority should be given to vaccinating high-risk groups everywhere in order to ensure maximum global protection against new strains and minimize the risk of transmission.
“Governments and donors, as well as development banks, should further support COVAX in order to ensure equitable access and delivery, as well as meet ongoing research and development costs for next-generation vaccines.”
The new COVID-19 variants have resulted in countries such as the United Kingdom banning travellers from South Africa.
South Africa is currently believed to be one of the sources where the new variants have been reported. Get more Covid-19 Stats from CovidZW.info #OpenCovidContracts