CNN Heroes: Team Rubicon’s Covid-19 vaccination mission
By Niamh Kennedy, Fred Pleitgen and Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
Germany has issued what appears to be the world’s strongest recommendation for mixing Covid-19 vaccines for efficiency reasons.
The German Standing Committee on Immunization (STIKO) said on Thursday that people who receive a first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine “should receive an mRNA vaccine as a second dose, regardless of their age.”
This makes Germany one of the first countries to strongly recommend that people who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca receive either a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine as a second dose.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel helped pave the way for mixed use of vaccines when she received the Moderna vaccine in June as a second dose after a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
STIKO said that “the results of the current study” show that the immune response generated after a mixed dose vaccination “is clearly superior”.
The mRNA vaccines currently approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization made a lower recommendation on June 17 when it stated that “an mRNA vaccine is now preferred as a second dose for people who have received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine / COVISHIELD ”.
“Better immune response”
The Canadian committee said it was making the recommendation based on “emerging evidence of a potentially better immune response from this mixed vaccine schedule.”
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford and published on June 28 found that “alternating doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines generate robust immune responses against COVID-19.”
According to a press release from the University of Oxford, the document revealed that “the two ‘mixed’ programs (Pfizer-BioNTech followed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Oxford-AstraZeneca followed by Pfizer-BioNTech) induced high concentrations of Antibody against SARS-CoV- 2 IgG protein peaks when doses were given four weeks apart.
The EMA said at a press briefing on Thursday that although it is “unable to make a definitive recommendation on the use of different Covid-19 vaccines for the two doses”, there is a “strong scientific rationale “behind the approach.
Marco Cavaleri, head of EMA’s Biological Health Threats and Vaccines Strategy, told the press conference that the agency was “aware of the preliminary results of studies conducted in Spain and Germany” which “show that this strategy results in a satisfactory immune response and no safety concerns.”
Also referring to recent data from Oxford, Cavaleri said the EMA will continue to review the data as it becomes available.
Cavaleri asserted that although the EMA makes recommendations “based on all the available evidence on the benefits and risks of a specific vaccine”, the responsibility for how the vaccination should be administered lies with the “organs of the vaccine”. experts guiding vaccination campaigns in each Member State. “
Some European countries have already administered mRNA vaccines as a second dose after a first dose of AstraZeneca for health and safety reasons, rather than for reasons of effectiveness.
Following concerns about life-threatening incidents of blood clotting, countries like Germany and Spain have recommended that people under the age of 60 who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca receive a dose of mRNA for their second dose. .
Making its recommendation on May 21, the Spanish Bioethics Committee said that although it recommended that people who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine receive a second dose of an mRNA vaccine, they would prefer that people taking a second dose of AstraZeneca to no second dose at all.
The fears of the new wave
Germany’s updated guidelines come as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned Europe risked another wave in August due to easing restrictions, spreading a variant infection with Covid-19 and low vaccination coverage.
“Last week the number of cases increased by 10%, due to increased mixing, travel, gatherings and the easing of social restrictions,” said Hans Kluge, regional director of the WHO for Europe, in a statement, warning that the Delta variant would be dominant in the region by the end of the summer.
Some 63% of Europeans are waiting for their first jab, he said. yet Europe “will still be largely unrestricted, with increased travel and gatherings” in August.
“The three conditions for a new wave of hospitalizations and excess deaths before the fall are therefore met: new variants, vaccination deficit, increased social mix,” he said. “There will be a new wave in the WHO European region unless we stay disciplined, and even more so when there are far fewer rules in place to follow – and unless we all take the vaccine without hesitate when it’s our turn. “
Kluge pointed out that two doses of the vaccine were effective against the Delta variant. “But the truth is that the average immunization coverage in the region is only 24%, and worse, half of our seniors and 40% of our health workers are still unprotected,” he said. declared.
“With these numbers, the pandemic is nowhere over, and it would be very wrong for anyone – citizens or policy makers – to assume that is the case,” he said.
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