Pan-American Health Organisation(PAHO)/World Health Organisation(WHO) representative Dr Erica Wheeler addressed claims regarding the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being a ‘second-class’ vaccine, saying this was untrue.
Speaking during today’s media briefing on the COVID-19 vaccine which was due to arrive around March, Dr Wheeler said all vaccines are approved by WHO and undergo stringent procedures:
‘WHO has a global responsibility to approve the quality, safety and efficacy of all vaccines that are released for the public. The technical reviews, both at the regional and international level are based on science, they are very stringent and there are a number of steps that need to be gone through before any vaccine is approved for emergency use listing.
‘The reason why Trinidad and Tobago is receiving these vaccines…is that there is a shortage of the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine and decisions have to be made about who gets Pfizer, and who gets other vaccines. There are over 164 candidate vaccines so eventually we will be getting more and more vaccines.’
‘As to efficacy, you will also note that the flu vaccine has a variable efficacy of between 40 and 70 per cent, yet all countries of the world take the flu vaccine. So this is not a case of a second-class vaccine, it is a case that because Trinidad and Tobago has provided adequate information about its status, and you know that we are in community spread, rather than omitting us from a list of countries to receive a first wave, what has been done by the technical committee at PAHO as well as the global committee…it’s on the basis of the epidemiological evidence as well as the need for the vaccine readiness to be proven…that Trinidad and Tobago was included.’
‘There is no such thing as WHO approving a second-rate vaccine because we have very stringent international codes, some of which are also legal, that we must follow before any vaccine is approved for global use.’
Earlier this year, a German vaccine advisory committee said there was a lack of data on the effect of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on elderly subjects over 65.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved by the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency for use in individuals over 18 years of age.