Covid: Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine recommended for use 'in all adults', says WHO

  • ITV News Science Editor on WHO recommending the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine for all adults

Scientists at the World Health Organisation have said the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is recommended for use in all adults.

A paper published by the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation has issued interim recommendations on the vaccine, saying that the jab could be given to people aged 18 and above “without an upper age limit”.

The newly published report found that a gap of between eight and 12 weeks from the day of the first jab to the second jab was optimal for increased efficacy.

Currently, the UK is advising a gap of 12 weeks between the first and second jab.

  • Oxford jab can be given to all adults over 18, WHO official says

There were no cases of coronavirus hospitalisation, severe disease or any Covid-19 deaths in participants over 65 who had received the Oxford jab.

Dr Alejandro Cravioto, chairman of the advisory group, said the findings means "people over the age of 65 years of age should be given the vaccination".

However the report said vaccine efficacy in older adults aged 65 and over is uncertain because only 9.8% of the trial participants were in this age bracket.

The report states: “This sample size was too small to estimate vaccine efficacy in this age group with precision given that the attack rate in this age group was lower.”

  • Video report by ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke

It added: “Efficacy was observed starting from day 22 after the first dose. While a longer interval between doses increased efficacy and immunogenicity, such data are not available for older persons as most older persons received a shorter inter-dose interval of 4-6 weeks.”

Conflicting reports in German media and from French president Emmanuel Macron had raised doubts about the efficacy of the jab in over 65s last month.

A number of countries have opted not to give the jab to those over the age of 65.

A draft recommendation from Germany’s vaccination advisory committee said the jab should only be given to people aged 18 to 64 for now as there was 'insufficient data' to recommend it for those aged over 65.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Speaking last month, Boris Johnson said he did not agree with the German ruling and backed the advice from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

He said: "I think that the MHRA, our own authorities, have made it very clear that they think the Oxford/AstraZenica vaccine is very good and efficacious, gives a high degree of protection after just one dose and even more after two doses.

"And the evidence that they've supplied is that they think that it is effective across all age groups."

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at Public Health England (PHE) has also defended the use of the jab.

Credit: PA

Dr Ramsay said: “Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are safe and provide high levels of protection against Covid-19, particularly against severe disease.

“There were too few cases in older people in the AstraZeneca trials to observe precise levels of protection in this group, but data on immune responses were very reassuring.

“The risk of severe disease and death increase exponentially with age – the priority is to vaccinate as many vulnerable people as possible with either vaccine, to protect more people and save more lives.”