The Friday meeting of Greece’s National Vaccination Committee resulted in a unanimous vote to go forward with administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to citizens up to 64 years of age.
The meeting was followed by statements by the president of the National Vaccination Committee Maria Theodoridou and the general secretary of Primary Health Care Marios Themistokleous.
Theodoridou stated “the National Vaccination Committee has reviewed in detail all available data regarding the safety and efficacy of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, following the recent approval of the vaccine by the European Medicines Agency for use in people 18 years of age and older, and in view of the possibility of its availability in Greece in the near future.”
The Commission concluded that, according to all the data available to date, the AstraZeneca vaccine has very good safety, immunity, and efficacy characteristics.
Safe, well-tolerated by population
In particular, the Committee believes that it is safe, well-tolerated by the population and the side effects are mostly mild and local.
The Commission also said that the AstraZeneca product protects almost all those vaccinated from a serious form of Covid-19 and from the need to be admitted to the hospital, while it protects a large part of those vaccinated from suffering mild illness.
The Commission also stated that the vaccine generates high antibody titers in people of all ages, including the elderly, and in addition, it causes strong stimulation of cellular immunity, which is an essential part of immunization.
The Oxford University /AstraZeneca product accordingly appears to reduce virulence in vaccinated individuals who may become infected and therefore helps to limit the spread of the virus.
Twelve-week interval between Astra Zeneca doses
Regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine, protecting its users from both serious and mild forms of the disease, it is noted that the number of elderly people who are currently included in the published studies is relatively small, so there is no strong scientific evidence for older people. However, based on the data available on the immunogenicity of the vaccine at all ages, it is estimated that protection is likely to affect older people as well.
Interestingly, regarding the interval between the first and second doses of the vaccine, according to the available data, the interval of 12 weeks creates higher levels of final protection compared to shorter intervals.
For all these reasons, the Greek Vaccination Committee recommends inoculation with the AstraZeneca vaccine for all those aged 18 to 64 years, with a period of 12 weeks between the first and second dose.
The Committee also stated, however, that these recommendations may be modified in the near future, depending on the latest data.
Themistocleous stated that the decision of the Committee “gives us the green light to carry out vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine in our country.
“Vaccine of exceptional effectiveness”
“In Greece, as in other European Union countries, the AstraZeneca vaccine will be used for those aged 18-64.
“I would also like to state very clearly that it is a vaccine of exceptional effectiveness,” he added. “The only reason for this decision is that there is not enough data on the ages over 65, which are expected in the coming days.
“Let me remind you that very large countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, have already vaccinated thousands of people and people over the age of 65. And since we will have the effectiveness of the vaccine in these groups by the end of the month, then we are expected to change this decision as well.
“Operationally, we will develop two parallel systems,” he explained. “The first system is the one we have at the moment and next to it we will open a second one in which the AstraZeneca vaccine will be used, with the first age category that we will open for these vaccinations being 60-64.
“The two systems will not intersect,” he noted. “That is, a citizen who is over 80 years old will be able to make an appointment only in specific vaccination centers, while citizens aged 60-64 will be able to make an appointment only in the vaccination centers with AstraZeneca vaccines, not in the vaccination centers using the other inoculations.”
Administration of the new AstraZeneca vaccine to the public is expected to begin after February 12. The dating platform will open soon. All the specific dates for inoculations will be announced on Monday, February 8, when the delivery plan has been finalized by the company.
Themistocleous concluded by saying that “Operationally, we are fully prepared for the implementation of this strategy.”