AstraZeneca vaccine recommended for all over 18 years of age
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The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) now recommends giving the coronavirus vaccine from AstraZeneca to people over the age of 18. This allows for similar use for the three approved coronavirus vaccines. According to new studies from the UK, this vaccine provides as good protection against a severe COVID-19 disease course among the elderly as the coronavirus vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer.
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New studies show similar protection against disease
New studies from the UK compared vaccinated and unvaccinated people over 70 years of age, and examined how many became ill and needed hospital treatment as a result of coronavirus infection. The studies show that the elderly over the age of 70 were equally well protected against a severe COVID-19 disease course regardless of whether they had the vaccine from AstraZeneca or from BioNTech and Pfizer.
“The fact that the AstraZeneca vaccine provides as good protection against a more severe disease course as the mRNA vaccines among the elderly, means that we can offer vaccination sooner to this age group, and those with serious underlying diseases,” says Sara Viksmoen Watle, Senior Medical Officer at the NIPH.
She points out that we can now resume the order of priority so that the elderly and those with the greatest risk of serious complications from COVID-19 infection will be vaccinated first.
Older people will be vaccinated faster
There is some uncertainty about how soon the vaccine will be offered to these groups, partly because the expected deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccines to Norway are uncertain. However, there is a high probability that:
- Everyone in priority group 3 will be offered dose 1 at least two weeks earlier
(People between 75-84 years)
- Everyone in priority group 4 will be offered dose 1 at least five weeks earlier
(People between 65-74 years and those between 18-64 years in high-risk groups)
- Priority group 5 will be offered dose 1 three weeks later
(People between 55-64 years with underlying diseases / conditions)
“We are pleased that we can now offer vaccines to those with the greatest need sooner, and that we can now use all the available vaccines side by side. To ensure rapid protection of as many people as possible, it will not be possible to select between the different vaccines,” explains Watle.
Several European countries changing recommendations
The AstraZeneca vaccine was developed by the University of Oxford. It is the latest of the three vaccines approved for use so far by the European Medicines Agency, and therefore in Norway. The vaccine is approved from the age of 18, but several European countries chose to limit its use among the elderly since it had not been tested whether the vaccine would provide as good protection in these age groups as the other approved vaccines.
“The UK has used the AstraZeneca vaccine for a while, and the new follow-up studies show excellent results. As a result, Norway and several other European countries are now allowing the use of the vaccine for people over the age of 18,” Dr Watle concludes.
Studies from the UK:
- Assessing the Effectiveness of BNT162b2 and ChAdOx1nCoV-19 COVID-19 Vaccination in Prevention of Hospitalisations in Elderly and Frail Adults
- Effectiveness of First Dose of COVID-19 Vaccines Against Hospital Admissions in Scotland: National Prospective Cohort Study of 5.4 Million People
- Early effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination with BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine and ChAdOx1 adenovirus vector vaccine on symptomatic disease, hospitalisations and mortality in older adults in England