AstraZeneca boasts vaccine works on elderly

The AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine can be used for people aged over 65, and also where coronavirus variants of concern are circulating, WHO experts said, soothing fears about the jab.

The World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) issued interim recommendations for when and how to use the two-shot vaccine.

The announcement came after the vaccine suffered setbacks, raising questions about whether it should be used on older people, or in places where a variant of the virus first found in South Africa is circulating.

SAGE chief Alejandro Cravioto acknowledged the lack of data on the vaccine’s efficacy for people aged over 65, which has prompted a number of countries to withhold recommending its use in older people, who are by far the most vulnerable to the virus.

But the experts concluded that given its performance with younger adults, “it is likely that the vaccine will be found to be efficacious in older persons. The trial data indicate that the vaccine is safe for this age group.”

Cravioto told journalists: “We feel that the response of this group cannot be any different from groups of a younger age.”

SAGE, he said, recommends it be used “for 18 years and above, without an upper age limit.”

Mexico approves Chinese-made vaccines

Mexican regulators gave emergency approval to the Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines CanSino Biologics and CoronaVac.

The approval was announced by deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell as Mexico struggles to manage the pandemic. 

“I have given the authorization for emergency use of both vaccines,” Lopez-Gatell, who serves as the spokesman for the government’s pandemic coordination, said during a press conference. 

In addition to CanSino and Sinovac’s CoronaVac, Mexico has authorized three other COVID-19 vaccines: those from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V.

Ireland extends lockdown

Ireland’s virus lockdown is set to be extended until April, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said Thursday, as the country battles to get infection rates and deaths down.

“Certainly we are looking at a continuation of high levels of restrictions until the Easter period,” Martin told state broadcaster RTE.

Restaurants and pubs across Ireland have been shut since Christmas Eve and the non-essential retail sector has been closed since New Year’s Eve.

Martin told RTE the exact plan for prolonging lockdown “remains to be determined by the government” but reopening schools and construction projects is “a priority.”

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