OCTA chief clarifies AstraZeneca vaccine ‘low efficacy’ comment

Published March 5, 2021, 3:05 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

OCTA Research chief Dr. Guido David has distanced himself from the statement made by his colleague on the low efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine against the South Africa coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant, saying it was “not the position of the entire group.”

“I agree that the statement is strong. In fact this was a statement made by Fr. (Nicanor) Austriaco who is a valued colleague. We understand where he is coming from, that he based it on the evidence that he found,” David said in an ANC interview on Friday, March 5.

Austriaco, who is a molecular biologist from the Providence College in the US, and a visiting professor at the University of Santo Tomas, said in a March 3 media forum that “the efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine against the South Africa variant could be reduced from 70 percent to 10 percent.”

“If we do not eliminate the B1.351 (South Africa) variant in the Philippines, then the 17 million doses of AstraZeneca that we have bought, but are not here yet, will be ineffective,” Austriaco further said during the forum.

“We don’t actually agree that it is ‘sayang lang’ or that it is ineffective,” David said, adding that OCTA team agrees with the World Health Organization’s stand that AstraZeneca is effective against the South Africa COVID-19 variant.

The OCTA chief explained that the international data which was cited by Austriaco was “just one study.”

“Of course limited studies may have some value but subject to change. We are not certain if this study is indeed what will happen when we undergo the vaccination in the Philippines. That is the first point,” he said.

Moreover, David pointed out that the study mentioned by Austriaco only tested the efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine on mild to moderate cases of South Africa coronavirus variant.

“They did not test the efficacy against moderate to severe (infections),” he said.

“I would like to point the important difference. Many people always talk about the efficacy of the Sinovac, for example, and saying that it’s just 50 percent. But it is 50 percent at least for mild to moderate (infections), meaning you won’t get mild to moderate (infection) at a 50 percent rate. But it is 100 percent or almost 100 percent according to the data against the severe infection. That is the important part of it and even 50 percent is better than zero percent as we are saying,” he added.

David said the other members of OCTA Research Team will convene to discuss and release a statement on the group’s official vaccine position.

“We also have to put that statement in context in terms of what the study was actually about, what it’s limitations are, and repercussions for our vaccination program because it’s important for us to get vaccinated,” he said.

David said OCTA has some members who have expertise on vaccines, and therefore the group can give their opinion on the matter.

“But what we say does matter it has to be backed by science and solid evidence,” he said.

“We agree that being in a position where we can make recommendations that people listen to our statements are very important. How we phrase them is very important,” he added.