WHO downplays study showing AstraZeneca is ‘less effective’ vs South African variant
MANILA, Philippines — The study that showed that the COVID-19 vaccine from British drugmaker AstraZeneca appeared to offer limited protection against mild disease caused by the South African variant had “limited samples” to work with, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
“WHO has looked very carefully at these reports. WHO headquarters has already issued a statement. The study that was used in South Africa was a very limited scale study and what it showed was that there was evidence of mild and moderate disease following AstraZeneca vaccines,” WHO representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in an online press briefing.
“The sample was a very small sample, less than 2,000 people and so we still believe, and WHO released a statement saying we still believe that the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective even in places where you have a large proportion of cases which could be attributed to the B.1.351 or the South African variant,” he added.
Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire echoed the stance of WHO on the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying the study had not been peer-reviewed.
Vergeire gave assurance that the DOH takes into account studies on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines to specific variants of concern.
“Itong study na sinasabi, katulad ng sinabi ni Dr. Rabi kanina, napakaliit ng sample, maliit ‘yung sample. It’s less than 2,000, and these were among individuals na young, at tsaka hindi pa peer-reviewed ‘yung study. Ibig sabihin hindi pa kumpleto ‘yung ebidensya for us to state na talagang mangayayari ito,” Vergeire said.
(This study, as what was mentioned by Dr. Rabi, had a limited sample. It’s less than 2,000 and these were among young individuals. The study has not been peer-reviewed meaning the evidence is not yet complete.)
“Ang sa atin naman, we like to always err on the side of caution pero hindi para sabihin na mawawalang bisa ang pagbabakuna natin. Gagamitin ‘yang AstraZeneca at itutuloy tuloy natin ang pagbabakuna,” she added.
(We want to err on the side of caution but we will not say that the vaccination program of the government will not have an effect. We will use AstraZeneca and proceed with the vaccination.)
Abeyasinghe noted that the Philippines is receiving “one of the largest consignment of Covax vaccines.”
Some 487,200 doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca will arrive in the Philippines this Thursday, according to Malacañang.
The Covax Facility has also committed to deliver up to 4.58 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca by May, according to Abeyasinghe. — Liezelle Soriano Roy, Trainee
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