Health officials are dispelling the notion that the AstraZeneca developed COVID-19 vaccine is not as good a vaccine as the more popular Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

The concern stems from the efficacy rates of the vaccines. The AstraZeneca vaccine has an efficacy rate of between 60 and 70 per cent while the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have an efficacy rate upwards of 90 per cent.

However, the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) representative Dr Erica Wheeler assured during a Ministry of Health press conference on Monday that it is just as good.

“You may also note that the flu vaccine has a variable efficacy of between 40 and 70 per cent yet all the countries of the world take the flu vaccine. So this is not a case of a second class vaccine,” she said.

“The reason why Trinidad and Tobago is receiving these vaccines, as it said in the communication we received (from COVAX), is that there is a shortage of the Pfizer vaccine and decisions have to be made about who gets Pfizer- it’s limited- and who gets other vaccines.”

The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be given emergency use authorisation by the WHO and Dr Wheeler assured that the WHO would not do this for a vaccine that is not safe or ineffective.

“There is no such thing as WHO approving a second rate, second class, or unsafe vaccine because we have very stringent international codes, some of which are also legal, that we must follow before any vaccine is approved for global use,” she said.

On Saturday, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh announced that T&T has been allocated between 100,000 and 120,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the COVAX facility.

The country bought into the facility back in September
The AstraZeneca vaccine is being used in the United Kingdom, Argentina, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, India, Bangladesh, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Hungary, Thailand, South Africa, and the European Union.

Reporter: Rishard Khan