South Africa Pauses AstraZeneca Coronavirus Vaccine Rollout
SOUTH AFRICA HAS PAUSED the rollout of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine after a study showed it had reduced efficacy in preventing infection of the COVID-19 variant first discovered in South Africa.
South African health officials announced the findings of a study in a briefing on Sunday, revealing that the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University showed a “substantial drop” in neutralizing the variant.
The variant of COVID-19 is now the predominant type of the virus in the country.
“When we analyzed individuals in terms of how well the vaccine worked against the variant, there was very little difference between the vaccine group and placebo group,” said Shabir Madhi, who led the clinical trial of the vaccine locally.
The study, which has not been released, included about 2,000 volunteers with an average age of 31 years old. Half received the vaccine and half received a placebo.
Still, he said, coronavirus vaccines are the “only sustainable option of reducing risk of severe disease and death.” Additionally, Salim Abdool Karim, one of South Africa’s leading COVID-19 experts, said that the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna appear to do “reasonably well” against the South Africa variant.
A fourth vaccine, developed by China’s Sinopharm, also shows a reduction in efficacy against the mutation – about 1.5 fold. However, Karim expressed hope about Johnson & Johnson’s potential vaccine.
A statement from Oxford University said work is already underway to produce a “second generation” of its vaccine, “which has been adopted to target variants of the coronavirus with mutations similar” to that in South Africa.
South Africa recorded 2,435 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing its total to more than 1.47 million. More than 46,290 people have died, including 110 on Sunday, according to the Department of Health of the Republic of South Africa.