AstraZeneca: why reserve the vaccine for the elderly?

The AstraZeneca vaccine will only be inoculated to people aged 56 and over within the next month. Why such a decision? What about people who have already received a first dose of AstraZeneca? Sophie Lucas, immunologist and president of the Institut de Duve at UCLouvain, enlightens us at the microphone of Bel RTL.

AstraZeneca’s anti-covid vaccine will be reserved for people 56 years and over with us for the next 4 weeks. The decision was taken by our health ministers following the announcement of the European Medicines Agency made on Wednesday. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) first acknowledged on Wednesday that the AstraZeneca vaccine can cause very rare blood problems in some people. According to her, this “possible link” justifies the risk being mentioned in the vaccine leaflet.

Following this announcement, many questions remain. Sophie Lucas, immunologist and president of the Institut de Duve at UCLouvain, answered some of them at the microphone of Bel RTL.

Why first reserve AstraZeneca for the youngest and now do the opposite?

At the start of the vaccination campaign, it was decided to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine only to 18-55 years old. This is because the vaccine was initially not tested enough in older people. We still did not know its effectiveness. Then, while continuing the vaccination campaign, larger tests were carried out. “We realized that it was quite as effective in the elderly so we opened the distribution to the elderly”, enlightens Sophie Lucas.

The situation has since changed. A few rare side effects potentially due to the vaccine have been observed. These cases have occurred within two weeks of vaccination, mostly in women under the age of 60. But no specific risk factor has been identified, however, said the executive director of the European Medicines Agency.

Belgium has therefore decided to reserve the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine for those 56 years and over, for a period of 4 weeks for these two reasons:

  • The observation of rare side effects in people who have had the vaccine. These have been observed in young people in particular. They are being temporarily withdrawn from the vaccination program with AstraZeneca, pending new, more solid data. It is a precautionary principle.
  • Analysis of the gain / risk ratio for the elderly. Faced with covid, the oldest people remain the most vulnerable. It therefore remains important for them to be vaccinated.

“You might as well encourage and continue vaccination at the same rate with AstraZeneca, including for people who are more at risk of developing a severe form of Covid”, explains Sophie Lucas.

Could we give another vaccine in 2nd dose for those who have already received a 1st dose of Astrazeneca?

According to immunologist Sophie Lucas, this is very likely. “For the moment, we are not doing it because we decide to administer the doses as they have been tested by the pharmaceutical companies”, she tells us. The specialist specifies that at present, there is no priori, “no contraindication to administer a second dose of another vaccine”.

Blood clots must be listed as a “very rare” side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19, the European regulator acknowledged on Wednesday, while estimating that the benefit / risk balance remained “positive”.

Vaccination has an extremely important benefit which greatly outweighs the risks

At the microphone of Bel RTL, Sophie Lucas wants to be reassuring. “The aim of vaccines, and including AstraZeneca’s, is to protect against Covid which can be serious and cause the death of people it infects, especially beyond a certain age. Vaccination has an extremely beneficial benefit. important which greatly exceeds the risks of very rare side effects which do not occur in dozens of cases in tens of millions of vaccinated people. The benefit of vaccination is far greater than the risk “, she concludes.

On Wednesday evening, Yvon Englert, Covid-19 general delegate in Wallonia, answered Caroline Fontenoy’s questions on the AstraZeneca vaccine, in the RTL INFO 19H:

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