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“The vaccine is safe,” declared Consultant Pathologist at the Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC), Dr Lester Simon, in reference to the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

“In regards to this particular vaccine that we are taking in Antigua, the AstraZeneca, the vaccine is in fact safe. The vaccine is in fact a lot safer than some of the vaccines we have taken before,” he added. 

During an Observer AM interview on Friday, Dr Simon further attempted to address the scepticism expressed by some members of the public about taking the vaccine which is now being rolled out locally.

The senior medical official spoke specifically about the recent circulation of news articles from various European countries, stating that they have ceased distribution of the shot.

He said that this was a ploy being used by bigger countries, especially those that have manufactured their own Covid-19 vaccines, and that recent results for the AstraZeneca vaccine have shown favourable responses.

He mentioned that despite the decision of these countries to cease vaccinating persons over 60, Britain has continued to inoculate that specific age group with no serious issues.

“When you hear that, you have to think to yourself, is this a bit of a war that’s going on between Europe again; and that’s what it is. You have to read and understand the little hints that are going on between England and Germany and the rest of Europe. You have to understand the genesis of that argument before you get to the revelation,” he said. 

His sentiments were echoed by the Assistant Director of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr Jarbas Barbosa, who is urging persons not to compare the efficacy rates of the available Covid-19 vaccines.

Here in Antigua and Barbuda, for example, Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s disclosure that he has taken the Moderna vaccine sparked much debate among residents, primarily because the Moderna shot is perceived to be more effective.

However, in a PAHO press briefing this week, Dr Barbosa responded to a question on efficacy posed by Observer, saying it was not beneficial to compare the vaccines.

He explained that, despite the reported efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine – versus its counterparts – it is still very effective in strengthening individual protection against the coronavirus. 

“Let me tell you that it is not recommended to make this kind of comparison between different methodologies that the people have used to compare efficacy. The general efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine is 63 percent. This is a very good efficacy rate,” Dr Barbosa said.

He added that top World Health Organization (WHO) experts have assured that the vaccines are safe and suitable for use across the globe.