COVID-19: South Africa suspends Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine rollout
South Africa has suspended the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to healthcare staff after a study suggested it was not effective against mild illness caused by the variant discovered there.
The country received its first one million doses of the vaccine at the end of January ahead of a planned rollout to frontline health workers from the middle of February.
The plans have now been halted after preliminary research suggested the vaccine offers minimal protection against mild to moderate disease from the mutation.
However, researchers still believe the vaccine is effective in preventing severe disease, hospital admissions and deaths, and also works well against the original strain.
The small study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, involved some 2,000 people in South Africa with an average age of 31.
The preliminary findings appeared to confirm theories that virus mutations seen in South Africa will allow for ongoing transmission of the virus in vaccinated populations.
On Sunday, lead researcher in the Oxford team Professor Sarah Gilbert said the current vaccines “have a reduction in efficacy against some of the variant viruses”.
However, she added: “What that is looking like is that we may not be reducing the total number of cases but there’s still protection in that case against deaths, hospitalisations and severe disease.”
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