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World Health Organization recommends Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for over-65s

Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine IS safe and ‘likely effective’ for over-65s, World Health Organization rules as it officially recommends the jab ‘without an upper age limit’

  • The WHO, world’s leading health authority, gave the jab green light for over-65s
  • Some European nations have refused to use the jab on older people
  • Countries said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove it would work for elderly
  • Director at the WHO, Dr Alejandro Cravioto, recommended no age limit

Oxford University and AstraZeneca‘s vaccine is safe and ‘likely effective’ for people over the age of 65, the World Health Organization said today.

The WHO has officially recommended the use of the vaccine in adults of all ages and said that doses should ideally be spaced by between eight and 12 weeks.

The statement is a hit back against European countries that criticised the jab and refused to use it among their older populations, claiming there was not enough proof it worked.

Countries including Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Poland, Hungary and Italy decided not to roll out the vaccine to older people.

News reports from Germany in January sensationally claimed that the vaccine was only eight per cent effective among over-65s, but it later emerged that ministers had put an inaccurate percentage on clinical data that was so vague it was meaningless.

However today, Dr Alejandro Cravioto, a director at the WHO, said in a briefing that the jab could be given ‘without an upper age limit’.

Dr Cravioto said there was ‘no reason’ that places with the South African variant of the virus should not use the vaccine to keep down hospital admissions and deaths with the virus, in the wake of a study suggesting it may be less effective against it. 

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been the most controversial of all the jabs so far, with claims that it might give less protection among people over 65. But the World Health Organization today put some of the concerns to bed, recommending the jab for people ‘without an upper age limit’ (Pictured: A pharmacist in Hertfordshire loads a syringe with the vaccine)

The WHO said in a report published this afternoon that the Oxford/AstraZeneca was, overall, 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 for death, but it is not known how well it will stop asymptomatic infection. 

Those parts of the WHO’s report were already expected – the big move was the confirmation that it should be used for people over the age of 65.

Britain is using the jab as one of its key components of the NHS vaccine rollout, which has so far immunised more than 12.7million people.

It is being given to people of all ages but some European countries were sceptical about this, despite the thumbs-up from the European Medicines Agency. 

France’s President Macron ruffled feathers by calling it ‘quasi-ineffective’ for elderly people.

But today the World Health Organization said: ‘Because a relatively small number of participants aged 65 years or over were recruited into the clinical trials, there were few cases of Covid-19 in either the vaccine or the control group in this age category, and thus the confidence interval on the efficacy estimate is very wide. 

‘More precise efficacy estimates for this age group are expected soon, from both ongoing trials and vaccine effectiveness studies in countries that are using this vaccine.

‘Immune responses induced by the vaccine in older persons are well documented and similar to those in other age groups. 

‘This suggests it is likely that the vaccine will be found to be efficacious in older persons. The trial data indicate that the vaccine is safe for this age group. 

‘The risk of severe disease and death due to Covid-19 increases steeply with age. Older adults are identified as a priority group in the WHO SAGE Prioritization Roadmap. 

‘This prioritization is supported by vaccine impact modelling work, even for vaccine efficacy that is substantially below that observed among younger adults administered AZD1222 [Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine]. 

‘Taking the totality of available evidence into account, WHO recommends the vaccine for use in persons aged 65 years and older.’

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