While France, Germany, Sweden, Austria and Poland have expressed reluctance in injecting people older than 65 years of age with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine because of concerns over its efficacy, Ghana has lined up its elderly, including President Akufo Addo as the first recipients of the just-delivered AstraZeneca Vaccine to Ghana.
In South Africa, deployment of AstraZeneca has been halted altogether after a study revealed that its efficacy level is way lower than advertised. In some cases, it is lower than 10%, an efficacy rate that ordinary herbal concoctions found in most grandma kitchens could achieve.
According to Kwame Amponsa-Akyianu, Ghana’s program manager for the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), Ghana’s vaccination rollout plan will be in three phases, with the aged or those with underlying health conditions, frontline workers, security personnel, members of the legislature, executive, and judiciary will be among the first set of individuals to receive the vaccine.
Many of those in the Executive, Judiciary and legislature are well into their 60s and would require more effective vaccines than younger sections of the Ghanaian populace.
But today, Thursday, February 25, 2021, Presidential Advisor on Health Anthony Nsiah-Asare announced that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo will be the first to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Despite this enthusiasm in Ghana, regulators in Europe have been caught in a dilemma whether the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine should even be given to the elderly.
According to The Conversation, a respected UK-based publication, “It is only ethical to approve a vaccine if it is safe and effective. Crucially, the reluctance to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine in the elderly is grounded only in concerns about its efficacy.”
On its website, The Conversation explained that the concerns raised about the AstraZeneca vaccine for the elderly are based on the fact that there is not enough evidence to show that it is effective in older age groups who need the vaccine most.
Research by Whatsup News shows that Between April 23 and Nov 4, 2020, some 11,000 participants were covered in a study to determine the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but only a paltry 660 of the participants were around 60 years old and above. The efficacy rate of the vaccine turned out to be approximately 62%, the lowest in all the current vaccines developed for treating COVID-19 worldwide.
Because of the low numbers, the authors of the study concluded that the vaccine’s efficacy in the elderly could not be determined
A similar study to test the efficacy of a rival vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine enrolled some 38,000 participants and there was a sizeable sample size of the elderly of some 16,000 who were 55 years old and over.
Today, February 25, 2021, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) waded into the controversies surrounding the administering of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the aged.
SAGE recommended that the vaccine can be administered to the aged, despite the absence of large clinical trials.
SAGE researchers claim they are “very confident” the vaccine will work in this age group based on their review of a more limited set of data in conjunction with data from all age groups. The group found that the vaccine may be effective at preventing severe disease from COVID-19, as well as hospitalizations and death.
Another big concern about AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been reports that it is mostly useless against new variants of COVID-19, especially the UK and South African variants.
Incidentally, Ghanaian health officials have announced that the recent upsurge in COVID-19 infections in Ghana showed that both the South African and UK variants had breached the borders of Ghana.
On Wednesday, Ghana received a “free” consignment of AstraZeneca vaccines amidst pomp and pageantry, with officials claiming the delivery signals the containment of COVID-19 in Ghana.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab was full of enthusiasm about the shipment to Ghana as he gleefully announced: “Today is an important milestone, with GAVI announcing the start of vaccine delivery to the world’s poorest.”
All of these excitements in Ghana are despite the fact that even the vaccine manufacturers themselves are uncertain whether those vaccinated will stop transmitting the virus or would be resistant to new infections.