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‘More information needed’: WHO says it needs more than just press release to assess AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine

‘More information needed’: WHO says it needs more than just press release to assess AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine

AstraZeneca’s press release on its Covid-19 vaccine’s efficacy is “certainly” not enough for the World Health Organization to draw any conclusion on the matter, the UN health watchdog said, calling for more data to be made public.

“What we have seen is a press release. And what is the next most important step is that the data really needs to be evaluated on [something] more than a press release,” Katherine O’Brien, the WHO director of immunization vaccines and biologicals, told a press conference on Friday.

The pediatric infectious disease physician said that the statement released by the British-Swedish company so far contains only a very “limited” amount of information, adding that more data is needed for the scientists to review it.

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At the same time, she called the Phase III trial results of the AstraZeneca vaccine “interesting” – but admitted that there can be a whole range of factors affecting such an outcome. Earlier, AstraZeneca presented somewhat puzzling results of its trials that suggested that a half dose of its vaccine followed by a full dose in a month turned out to be significantly more effective than two full doses.

The vaccine was declared to be up to 90 percent effective when given as a half dose followed by a full dose. However, two full doses translated only into 62 percent efficacy.

O’Brien’s colleague, the WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan appeared to be more skeptical about the trial results as she said they were insufficient due to the small number of test participants.“Less than 3,000 people were given the half dose [regimen],” she said, adding that, according to her understanding, all people in that group were “under 55.”

Swaminathan said that the results demonstrated by the half-dose group and those of the full-dose one are “hard to compare and the numbers are still small to really come to any definitive conclusions.” She also branded all assessments of the vaccine’s efficacy “a speculation at this point.”

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The WHO called on AstraZeneca and other vaccine developers around the world to stick to the policy of maximum transparency and release the protocols of the trials for scientists to analyze and for people to “make decisions and choices.”

The health agency’s comments came as the UK government formally asked national regulators to assess AstraZeneca’s vaccine, as it eyes launching the process of vaccination as early as December. AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said on Thursday that the company would launch another trial of its jab, adding that it is unlikely to delay its authorization.

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