South Africa Suspends Rollout Of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine
Africa’s hardest-hit nation had intended to soon roll a million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford to healthcare workers.
However, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told reporters during a virtual press conference about the suspension after trial data showed the vaccine developed by drugmaker AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford offered only limited protection against mild and moderate disease caused by 501Y.V2 coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa
The University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, which conducted the trial, said in a statement on Sunday that the AstraZeneca vaccine “provides minimal protection against mild-moderate Covid-19 infection” from South African variant.
However, in a full paper due to be published on Monday, AstraZeneca said that none of the 2,000 participants developed serious symptoms.
That could mean it will still have an effect on severe illness, although not yet enough data is available to make a definitive judgement.
Lagging behind in the global vaccination race, South Africa received its first delivery of a million doses on Monday.
An additional 500,000 doses are expected this month.
All are AstraZeneca vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India and some 1.2 million health workers are to be first in line for the shots.
Mkhize, referring to vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer/BioNTech, said;
In the next four weeks, we will have the J&J and Pfizer.
Discussions with other vaccine producers are also ongoing, particularly Moderna and the makers of the Russian Sputnik V jab.
Mkhize recently announced having reserved 20 million Pfizer/BioNTech doses.
The 1.5 million AstraZeneca vaccines obtained by South Africa, which will expire in April, will be kept until scientists give clear indications on their use, he said.
South Africa plans to vaccinate at least 67 percent of its population by the end of the year, or around 40 million people.
The country has recorded more than 1.5 million infections and over 46,000 deaths from the virus.