The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, also known as the “world’s vaccine,” has taken the world by storm ever since it has been introduced. Through its many scandals, many questions have arisen about the vaccine and its effectiveness. Let's take a look at the basic information about this vaccine.
The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is a viral vector-based vaccine. The vaccine utilizes a safe, non-replicating chimpanzee adenovirus to deliver the genetic code of a protein found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the spike protein, to human cells so that the cells can make the protein. Once the surface spike protein is produced, the immune system is primed to attack the SARS-CoV-2 virus if it later infects the body. It is cheap to produce and can be stored, transported and handled at 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, which means it doesn’t require cold storage like other COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccine was developed by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, then later passed to AstraZeneca. It was based on a vaccine that Oxford previously was developing for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. Through clinical trials, the AstraZeneca vaccine has shown to be 78.9% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. Though it’s not the most effective, it is extremely convenient for nations to use. So why is there controversy around it?
Countries such as Canada and Germany have suspended use of the vaccine for people aged less than 55. In Germany specifically, 1 in 100,000 people who were administered the AstraZeneca vaccine faced complications. Out of the 2.7 million Germans vaccinated with a first dose of Astrazeneca's vaccine, 31 people got rare blood clots in their brains. Due to this rare blood clotting disorder, most European countries suspended the vaccine.
Some experts such as Nova Scotia’s top doctor deem that the vaccine suspension doesn’t mean it’s unsafe. The doctor expresses that the complications simply show that “we[the company] are seeing something rare in a certain subset of the population that we need to monitor and get more information about”(Strang). On top of that, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization(NACI) explained that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks for people above 55. However, this contradicts what they said previously in late February, which was that people aged over 65 shouldn’t get the vaccine. Controversial commentary like this is what prevents countries like the United States from approving the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Although a definite link between the vaccine and blood clotting cases has not been made, it is highly suggestive. This rare disorder is preventing some countries from using the vaccine on the younger generation, but other countries continue to use it due to its low-cost and easy maintenance. Just like other vaccines, the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has both benefits and risks. The question is, do the benefits outweigh these risks? Only further research can tell.