AstraZeneca’s vaccine less protective against virus variant in South Africa

AstraZeneca's vaccine less protective against virus variant in South Africa

CAPE TOWN: South Africa is pausing the country’s rollout of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after a study showed it offered reduced protection from the COVID-19 variant first identified there, CNN reported citing South African health officials on Sunday (local time).

According to South Africa Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize, the hold of vaccine would be temporary while scientists figure out how to most effectively deploy the AstraZeneca vaccine.
South Africa will move forward with the deployment of vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson and Johnson, Mkhize said.

Early data released showed that two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine provided only “minimal protection” against mild and moderate Covid-19 from the variant first identified in South Africa, CNN reported.

In the AstraZeneca-Oxford trial in South Africa, about 2,000 participants were given either two doses of the vaccine or placebo shots, according to the study, which has not been released.

Researchers said that viral neutralization against the B.1.351 variant was “substantially reduced” when compared to the earlier coronavirus strain.The vaccine’s efficacy against severe Covid-19, hospitalization and death were not assessed.

The company is “working closely with the South African Ministry of Health on how best to support the evaluation against the severe disease of the B.1.351 variant, and start to bring this vaccine to the South African people should it prove to be successful,” CNN quoted AstraZeneca spokesperson’s statement.

The statement said the company believes its vaccine will still protect against severe disease from the new B.1.351 variant, particularly when the dosing interval is eight to 12 weeks. However, in a previous statement, the company said it is working with Oxford University to adapt the vaccine against the B.1.351 variant so “it is ready for Autumn delivery should it be needed.”

World Health Organization’s independent vaccine panel will meet Monday (local time) to discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine and what the new study means for vaccines going forward, said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19.

“Some preliminary studies suggesting reduced efficacy. But again, those studies aren’t fully published yet,” CNN quoted Van Kerkhove as saying. She added that it’s critical to have more than one safe and effective vaccine: “We cannot rely on only one product.” According to The New York Times, AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been authorised by around 50 countries, including Britain, which has found dozens of cases of the variant first seen in South Africa. (ANI)