South Africa on Sunday said it would suspend its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after initial trials showed “disappointing” results against the B.1.351 variant of COVID-19 . The country has received 1 million doses of the jab. It had planned to start using it to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers from mid-February. The study, involving around 2,000 people, found the vaccine offered “minimal protection” against mild and moderate cases of COVID-19. It has not yet been peer-reviewed.
The government will instead offer vaccines produced by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in the coming weeks. This newer strain is more infectious and currently accounts for more than 90% of the COVID-19 cases in the country. South Africa plans to vaccinate at least 67% of its population by the end of the year, or around 40 million people. It has recorded nearly 1.5 million infections and more than 46,000 deaths from the virus.
Developers of theOxford-AstraZeneca vaccinesay they will have a modified jab ready by the end of this summer. The early results for the AstraZeneca vaccine against the South African variant could have far-reaching implications in the fight against coronavirus on the continent. Many African nationshad been planning to use the AstraZeneca shot owing to its affordability and the fact that it can be kept in ordinary refrigerators. COVAX, an international procurement initiative for poorer countries, has bought the AstraZeneca vaccine in bulk from the Serum Institute of India.
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