In defense of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, Moncef Slaoui says “there is reason to believe that this vaccine will be differently effective” among younger and older populations.
Rabat – Amid intense, global, hand-wringing about the effectiveness of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for the elderly, Moncef Slaoui, who was the Trump administration’s COVID-19 vaccine tsar, has “strongly” recommended the vaccine be used to avoid severe cases and COVID-19 related deaths.
Speaking to Moroccan news outlet Le360, Slaoui said that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is as effective as any of the other highly recommended COVID-19 vaccines.
“Listen, there are two aspects to this information,” the scientist said when asked whether the vaccine is safe. He explained that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is “moderately effective against mild COVID-19 cases.”
According to Slaoui, results of “the clinical studies conducted in England, Brazil, and South Africa” suggest that the vaccine is “not as effective as RNA-based vaccines against mild cases where patients display moderate symptoms of the disease, such as coughing, flue, and mild fever.”
He added, however: “On the other hand, in terms of effectiveness against severe cases of the disease, where people fall sick at least a week or where patients can be hospitalized or even die, AstraZeneca is as effective as Jonhson & Jonhson, Moderna, or Pfizer.”
Moncef Slaoui hinted at the fundamental reason why some countries may have opted to suspend the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for the elderly, especially for people over 65.
“There is no sufficient data about the effectiveness of AstraZeneca for people over 65. However, the elderly’s immune response to AstraZeneca is the same as the immune response in younger populations. So there is reason to believe that this vaccine will be differently effective against severe cases in older and younger people.”
Making Slaoui’s defense of the in-question Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine more reassuring is the scientist’s revelation that his mother, who lives in Morocco, recently received the vaccine as part of Morocco’s ongoing rollout.
“Personally, I would absolutely recommend using either Sinovac or AstraZeneca. In fact, my mother was vaccinated with AstraZeneca in Morocco; I recommended it to her and I would not hesitate to make the same recommendation” to anyone else.
Slaoui’s defense of AstraZeneca comes as European countries continue to question the efficiency of the vaccine.
On Friday this week, most EU countries lifted their suspension of the vaccine after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) found that the vaccine is safe and “not associated with an increase in the overall risk of thromboembolic events or blood clots.”
But there is still apprehension in the air, with French President Emmnanuel Macron maintaining that the vaccine is “quasi-ineffective” for the over-65.
Morocco, meanwhile, has been unaffected by the global outcry over the safety or efficiency of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Even prior to EMA’s latest confirmation of the vaccine’s effectiveness, the North African country had long dismissed what it appeared to consider as politicized debates over a matter that had already been settled by largely encouraging clinical studies.
As a result, the country has received global applause for its “very successful” vaccination campaign and is routinely cited among the few developing countries that are doing far better than most developed nations in terms of COVID-19 management.
Moncef Slaoui’s revelation that he recommended the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for his mother is not his first public defense of the vaccine. In another interview with Le 360 in late February, the Moroccan scientist described the vaccine as “very efficient.”
He said: “AstraZeneca… is a vaccine that I know very well. It is also a very efficient vaccine against severe illness, hospitalization, and coronavirus-related deaths.
“It is a little bit less efficient than RNA-based vaccines […], but I think that from the point of view of global health, what is important is to prevent severe illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. For this, the AstraZeneca vaccine is excellent.”