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What occurred to the AstraZeneca vaccine? Now uncommon in wealthy international locations, it’s nonetheless saving lives world wide

The AstraZeneca vaccine, developed in partnership with the College of Oxford, was one of many first vaccines accessible to be used within the UK and world wide in the course of the COVID pandemic.

Greater than two billion doses have been distributed to at the least 170 international locations, with round 50 million doses administered within the UK.

However most of these have been first and second doses – solely slightly over 56,000 doses of AstraZeneca had been given as booster doses as of Might 2022. The overwhelming majority of third doses administered within the UK have been Pfizer (30.1 million doses) and Moderna (9.4 million).

So regardless of being a wonderful vaccine, using AstraZeneca within the UK has declined throughout the pandemic. It’s additionally not used a lot elsewhere in Europe, or within the US the place it has but to be authorised.

The explanation for its restricted use in high-income international locations may very well be a mixture of two components. First, it’s probably that the mRNA vaccines (particularly these manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna) are perceived to be much more efficient than AstraZeneca. And second, the vaccine’s status took a success when some individuals who obtained this vaccine subsequently developed blood clots.

On the primary level, some analysis has indicated the mRNA vaccines supply barely increased ranges of safety towards beforehand dominant variants, together with delta. A 2022 research from the Netherlands that measured antibody ranges towards SARS-CoV-2 following vaccination confirmed Pfizer and Moderna carried out higher than the viral vector vaccines (together with AstraZeneca). However one caveat right here is that the contributors who obtained the mRNA vaccines have been a lot youthful than the AstraZeneca recipients. Immune responses sometimes wane sooner in older populations.

Learn extra:
The Valneva COVID vaccine has been authorised to be used within the UK – here is what the proof says

The general public fallout from the blood clot scares, related to AstraZeneca however not with Pfizer or Moderna, additionally affected the vaccine’s rollout. The vaccine remains to be licensed to be used in youthful adults within the UK, who have been deemed to be at increased threat of blood clots following the AstraZeneca vaccine. Nonetheless, the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation really helpful that individuals aged 39 and underneath must be supplied an alternative choice to AstraZeneca the place potential.

These antagonistic occasions gained important media protection, and public confidence within the AstraZeneca vaccine was actually knocked within the UK and past. For instance, in April 2021, Denmark turned the primary European nation to stop utilizing the vaccine, with Norway following quickly after. Across the similar time, a number of Canadian provinces briefly suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine for folks underneath 55 as a precautionary measure. All of this got here amid excessive ranges of COVID in these international locations and elsewhere, and at a time when international demand for COVID vaccines significantly outstripped provide.

These considerably kneejerk reactions made waves additional afield. For instance, analysis my colleagues and I performed in Ghana highlighted how folks had noticed the responses in Europe and North America. The end result was elevated hesitancy in direction of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Regardless of all this, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare merchandise Regulatory Company, the European Medicines Company and the World Well being Group continued always to suggest the vaccine, primarily based on its security and effectiveness file.

Public confidence within the AstraZeneca vaccine has suffered.
Sabrina Bracher/Shutterstock

An necessary vaccine for the creating world

The proportion of the Ghanaian inhabitants that has obtained a number of doses of any COVID vaccine is simply over 30%. Our 2022 analysis in Ghana signifies that vaccine hesitancy charges amongst these presently unvaccinated ranges between 30%-50%, relying on the inhabitants surveyed.

An April 2022 briefing by the Ghana Well being Service (not revealed on-line) indicated that 43% of the 28 million doses obtained in Ghana have been AstraZeneca. Of the vaccines administered in March 2022, 57% have been AstraZeneca.

Among the many causes for a desire for AstraZeneca, there will likely be concerns round provide, price and logistical points. For instance, the vaccine requires solely common fridge storage, in contrast with the mRNA vaccines which should be frozen. For these causes the AstraZeneca vaccine is important for Ghana, together with many different lower-income international locations. Excessive native and international confidence is crucial to make sure a profitable vaccination marketing campaign with excessive uptake.

The UK and plenty of different high-income international locations are more likely to proceed predominantly utilizing mRNA COVID vaccines. Nonetheless, a lot of the information now we have round “which vaccine is healthier” pertains to earlier variants relatively than omicron. Because the virus continues to evolve, so should the proof base.

There may be an rising physique of proof that “mixing and matching” vaccine varieties is protected and efficient, and should even generate stronger or broader immune responses over time. On this mild, there may very well be a task for AstraZeneca or different vaccines corresponding to Novavax, alongside mRNA vaccines.

In the long term, we’d like a vaccine that may defend towards a number of variants and even all coronaviruses.

Learn extra:
Omicron might attain thousands and thousands earlier than vaccines do – however that does not imply race to vaccinate the world is over

For a lot of high-income international locations in 2022, the mRNA vaccines are the vaccine of alternative, relatively than AstraZeneca. The mRNA vaccines are additionally being manufactured in sufficiently massive volumes to make provide a lot much less of a problem than it was earlier within the pandemic. These are all necessary components for nationwide decision-makers. Nonetheless, it’s necessary to stress that the AstraZeneca vaccine is a protected and efficient product, and stays an important device to underpin the worldwide response to the pandemic.

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