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South Africa puts hold on AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine over its low efficacy

Prashasti Awasthi Johannesburg | Updated on February 08, 2021

Clinical trial suggests reduced efficacy against Covid variant dominant in the country

South Africa has decided to put a hold on AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine jabs after studies showed that the vaccine gives minimal protection against the Covid-19 variant that is currently in circulation in the country.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize revealed that the government will seek scientific consultation on how to proceed further with vaccines. This comes after a trial that showed AstraZeneca’s vaccine is not as efficacious against the 501Y.V2 variant that brought the second wave of infection late last year.

According to the researchers, the vaccine demonstrated 75 per cent efficacy against the wild type virus. 

However, in recent studies, the vaccine only provides 22 per cent protection against the new variant of the coronavirus.

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine may have reduced efficacy against South African strain: Reports

Last week, AstraZeneca said that it speculated its Covid-19 vaccine could protect against severe disease and that the vaccine had already started adapting it against the 501Y.V2 variant.

However, professor Shabir Madhi, lead investigator on the AstraZeneca trial in South Africa, said data on the vaccine were a reality check and that it was time to “recalibrate our expectations of Covid-19 vaccines,” Indian Express reported.

India approves AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine

South Africa has now decided to administer Covid-19 vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer/BioNTech in the coming weeks. 

“What does that mean for our vaccination program which we said will start in February? The answer is it will proceed,” Mkhize said during an online news briefing.

“From next week for the next four weeks we expect that there will be J&J vaccines, there will be Pfizer vaccines,” he added.

Published on February 08, 2021

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