WASHINGTON, DC. Wed. Feb. 10, 2021– In a recent conference held by PAHO, media personnel continued to put forward their countries’ concerns as it relates to the implementation, efficiency, and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, especially, received extra scrutiny after a study of the vaccine’s efficiency on a mutant variant of the virus in South Africa was recorded at 63%. Dr. Jarvas Barbosa, Assistant Director of PAHO, in responding to those concerns, said, “I think that sometimes we are surprised to see that in 2021, after so many decades, that the vaccines have saved millions of lives; we still ask this question.”
Barbosa supported the integrity of the vaccine saying, “First, it is important to say that the vaccines that we have now for COVID-19 are the outcome of an unprecedented movement of the producers and biotech companies that develop vaccines, using many different technological platforms. These vaccines benefited from other research for all the coronavirus and other viruses that have been refreshed in recent decades.”
Barbosa added, “Second, the vaccines to be approved, they needed to show the evidence to the regulators in each country and to WHO to receive the prequalification or the emergence use lease authorization. They need to show the evidence that they, the producer, have good manufacturing standards. They need to show that they have performed the clinical, pre-clinical and clinical trials.”
Further addressing the AstraZeneca vaccine scare, Barbosa commented, “It’s not true that AstraZeneca vaccine showed a significant reduction for the variance. No, this is not correct. [What had happened] is that during the clinical trials in South Africa, a nice, small number of participants of this trial had detected a reduction in their efficacy for mild cases, mild and moderate cases only. We don’t have enough data about the efficacy implications for severe cases; for instance, this was only for the variant that is circulating in South Africa. We cannot expand this to say all the other variants. It’s not the correct way to approach this problem.”
In conclusion, Dr. Barbosa said, “We need to keep vaccinating and at the same time collecting more data, to see what is the real effect of this new variance on the vaccine efficacy.” He further warned, “It is not sufficient to have only a vaccine. All the countries need to have regulatory mechanisms as well as licenses for importation. Countries are invited to share their data through the VIRAT tool, a self-assessment of all aspects necessary for a country to be ready for vaccination. Also, we [are] requesting countries to send plans for PAHO’s review, so that we can improve and find gaps. “