Caroline Colijn, mathematician and epidemiologist at Simon Fraser University, and Horacio Bach, assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, also say AstraZeneca’s vaccine could be better promoted by officials provincial public health authorities as a serious competitor to the vaccines of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on Monday recommended that the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford vaccine not be given to people aged 65 and over due to lack of data on its effectiveness in older populations, although Health Canada approved it for all adults last week.
AstraZeneca has reported an efficacy rate of its vaccine of around 62% in preventing COVID-19, while this rate has been measured at around 95% for vaccines from Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Caroline Colijn and Horacio Bach report that among those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine, none had been hospitalized with serious illness and that there had been no deaths from COVID-19.
These professors believe that this should reassure many, including people who evaluate a vaccine only by its rate of effectiveness.
“If AstraZeneca’s vaccine keeps you from getting really sick, that’s already a victory for you,” Ms. Colijn said. “I see a huge, huge benefit from vaccinating young people earlier, especially those with high contact, as well as essential workers.”
NACI made its recommendation on AstraZeneca after several provinces announced on Monday their intention to step up their vaccination program.
But Dr Supriya Sharma, senior medical adviser at Health Canada, said that after the approval of this new vaccine last Friday, more information is awaited which shows that its effectiveness could be higher. Canada has ordered 24 million doses; most are expected to arrive from the United States between April and September.
Vaccinate essential workers earlier
British Columbia’s Director of Public Health, Dr Bonnie Henry, has previously indicated that essential workers, including first responders, teachers and workers in poultry processing plants, should receive AstraZeneca vaccine. earlier than expected, depending on the availability of doses.
Professor Colijn recalls that from a public health point of view, vaccination is beneficial in countering COVID-19: the more vaccine doses, the more we can fight against the pandemic and relax health restrictions. This use of the AstraZeneca vaccine would be all the more important if the wait for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines was several weeks, or even several months.
According to her, people should not be given the choice of the vaccine. “It may be political, but from a strictly public health point of view, vaccination is a huge benefit for the community,” she pleaded.
Professor Bach does not agree. According to him, from an ethical standpoint, Canadians should have the right to choose their vaccine, just as they have the freedom to make decisions about other aspects of their health. He still recommends that people take the opportunity of the first available vaccine.
“I think the way we can get more people (to the vaccination) is to tell them the truth. And repeat, repeat, repeat that with the vaccine, you most likely will not be hospitalized for this disease. ”
Note to readers: Corrected version: In a previous version, the spelling of “Horacio” Bach was incorrect.