As people research vaccine options, they may wonder why the AstraZeneca vaccine is not yet available in the US. Why hasn’t it received FDA approval? How is it different from the vaccines like Pfizer or Moderna? Keep reading to learn more.
Official Name: Oxford/AstraZeneca: AZD1222; alternately named Vaxzevria.
Vaccine Type: Non Replicating Viral Vector (2 doses, 12 weeks apart)
Because the pandemic meant that vaccines were developed in nontraditional circumstances, vaccines that pass rigorous testing are considered “authorized for emergency use.” The following entities have authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use:
- 118 countries, not including the United States
- Africa Regulatory Taskforce
- Carribean Regulatory System
- World Health Organization (WHO)
How it works
Non-replicating viral vector vaccines are created by injecting the genetic material of COVID-19 into the cells of another virus that can’t copy itself to make more cells. This combination of cells teaches the body how to mimic the S protein that surrounds the COVID-19 virus.
Once the body detects the S protein, it begins manufacturing antibodies that can recognize and fight COVID-19. This vaccine’s efficacy has varied in different reports, ranging from 70% – 90%.
Expected side effects
There are some side effects that may be experienced by some people at mild to moderate severity. Most commonly reported side effects include:
- Pain, swelling, and bruising at the injection site
- Fatigue, headache, and body pain
- Chills and fever
There are some serious reactions that are extremely rare, including:
- Severe Allergic Reaction: People may be asked to remain onsite in the event a severe allergic reaction could occur.
- Blood clots: In very few cases, some people develop blood clots linked to low platelet counts, a condition called Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT). The clots generally occur 4-28 days after vaccination.
Why isn’t this vaccine authorized by the FDA?
The FDA has requested results from additional large-scale trials, citing discrepancies in some of their initial trials.
Ironically, in April 2021 the Biden Administration announced plans to donate 60 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. has a reserve of doses that will be distributed or donated upon FDA authorization. Because the United States has reached a stable supply of vaccines already, there isn’t much urgency in rushing the authorization for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
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