A coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University cut transmission of the virus by two-thirds, according to a study released by the university Wednesday.
 
The study has not been peer-reviewed, but Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC the findings are “good news.”
 
“It does show the world that the Oxford jab works, it works well,” Hancock said.
 
The vaccine has come under criticism from other nations in Europe in recent days with officials expressing concerns about the lack of data regarding its effectiveness in older people.
 
France’s top health advisory body recommended the vaccine only be used in those under the age of 65.
 
In Belgium, the government said it would only give the vaccine to those under the age of 55.
 
“We don’t have enough info to be sure to say that it is good for the elderly,” Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said.
 
Oxford’s vaccine trial chief Andrew Pollard told the BBC on Wednesday that despite the lack of data about its exact effectiveness, the vaccine provides good immune responses in older people.
 
“We have good immune responses in older adults very similar to younger adults, the protection that we do see is in exactly the same direction, and of a similar magnitude,” Pollard said.
 New Zealand
In New Zealand, regulators on Wednesday gave approval for the provisional use of a vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech.  The first vaccinations are expected to begin by the end of the first quarter of 2021, with a priority on border workers in the country that has strict quarantine measures in place for those arriving from abroad.
 
Wednesday also brought the start of a vaccination campaign in Pakistan, which is using a vaccine from China’s Sinopharm.
 Asia
Like many countries, the first people to get the vaccine are frontline health workers.  Pakistan’s minister for planning and development said at a ceremony in Islamabad that the workers are the “real heroes” as they put their own health at risk to help those infected with COVID-19.
 
Pakistan has received 500,000 doses of the vaccine, and it plans to vaccinate 70% of its high-risk population by the end of the year.
 
In South Korea, officials are limiting travel and gatherings during next week’s Lunar New Year holidays and urging people to stay home to combat a rise in coronavirus cases.
 
Health officials also said Wednesday they have detected the first local transmissions of virus variants first identified in Britain and South Africa.

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