“Temporary hold” on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine – WHO Press Conference (8 Feruary 2021)

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  • United Nations published this video item, entitled ““Temporary hold” on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine – WHO Press Conference (8 Feruary 2021)” – below is their description.

    WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus expressed concern following an announcement by South Africa that it was putting a “temporary hold” on the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

    Speaking at a press conference in Geneva today (08 Feb), Tedros said the decision by South Africa was made after a study showed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was “minimally effective at preventing mild to moderate disease caused by a variant first identified in South Africa.” However, he said there were some “important caveats; “given the limited sample size of the trial and the younger, healthier profile of the participants, it is important to determine whether or not the vaccine remains effective in preventing more severe illness.”

    Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Co-chair of South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, said the study which looked at only mild and moderate infections raised concerns, “not because we were not expecting some diminishing activity, but it was the level to which it was diminished.” He added, “And so now, we are unclear and uncertain about the efficacy of the vaccine in preventing hospitalization and severe disease. We know from the overall trial that the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective against other pre-existing variants, we’re just not confident about its efficacy against the 501Y.V2 variant.”

    Dr Tedros said WHO expects to make a decision in the next few days on the emergency use listing of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, for the two sites in India and the Republic of Korea which will produce it for COVAX. He added, “We are committed to using all available data to make those assessments. In the meantime, COVAX continues to prepare for its first quarter distribution, and to add to its vaccine portfolio.”

    Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), said the mutation of the virus was anticipated and “this is one of the values actually of doing the science.” He said, “It allows us to essentially to look into the future, to look at possibilities that may occur and to help us look out for mutations that would be of concern.”

    Dr Kate O’Brien, Director of WHO’s Department of Immunizations, Vaccines and Biologicals said, “Everybody’s looking at the data right now. And there are a range of ways that this can be approached. But I think what was most clear that came out from the SAGE meeting is that in looking at the evidence on the AstraZeneca vaccine across a number of trials, it is very clear that it has efficacy against severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths. Among the variants and different variants, there is some reduction, some indications of reduction in the efficacy, some more, some less, depending on which variant, which population, and also of the neutralizing antibody responses. But we also have evidence that there is the likelihood that the retention of meaningful impact against severe disease is a very plausible scenario for the product against the B1351 variant.”

    Turning to the Ebola situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tedros said a new case of Ebola was reported near the city of Butembo in the North Kivu province. He said the victim who lost her life was a was married to an Ebola survivor. He said thanks to the enormous capacity built during the latest outbreak, provincial health authorities have significant experience in responding to Ebola and in preventing onward transmission. He added, “More than 70 contacts have been identified, and WHO is supporting local and national authorities to trace them and provide care where needed.”

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