Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine: What do WHO recommendations say

Health workers at high risk of exposure and older people — including those aged 65 or older — should be given priority for Oxford / AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 11 February 2021

Health workers at high risk of exposure and older people — including those aged 65 or older — as well as those with comorbidities would be given priority for Oxford / AstraZeneca novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine (AZD1222).

These are among the interim recommendations by the World Health Organization Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE).

The vaccine is yet to be recommended for an emergency use listing by the WHO; it has undergone review by the European Medicines Agency, an agency of the European Union in charge of evaluation and supervision of medicinal products. The vaccine has an efficacy of 63.09 per cent against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is being manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, Pune, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer. The vaccine, called Covishield, is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) from chimpanzees. 


Vaccination can be offered to people who have had COVID-19 in the past, the recommendations added. But these people may wish to defer their COVID-19 vaccination for up to six months from the time of infection, to allow others who may need the vaccine more urgently, it said.

Vaccination can be offered to breastfeeding women if they are part of a group prioritized for vaccination. Pregnant women can take the vaccine jab if the benefit of doing so outweighs the potential vaccine risks.

The recommendations added that pregnant women at high risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 or those who have comorbidities may be vaccinated.

Who is the vaccine not recommended for?

The recommendations warned those with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine against taking it.

The vaccine is recommended only to those aged above 18 years pending the results of further studies.

Does it work against new variants?

The recommendations, on the newer variants of the novel coronavirus, stated:

Preliminary findings highlight the urgent need for a coordinated approach for surveillance and evaluation of variants and their potential impact on vaccine effectiveness. As new data become available, WHO will update recommendations accordingly. 

No substantive data are available related to impact of AZD1222 on transmission or viral shedding, it added.  

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