South Africa temporarily halted vaccinations with the drug from AstraZeneca after research showed it offers limited protection against a strain of the new coronavirus that was found here, CNN reports.
South African Health Minister Zveli Mkhize said at a briefing that the government would await scientific advice on how best to handle the vaccine. He also added that the government will soon offer vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.
According to preliminary data, two doses of the vaccine from AstraZeneca provide only “minimal protection” against mild to moderate COVID-19, caused by a strain of coronavirus that was first detected in South Africa. The study, the results of which have not yet been published, involved 2,000 volunteers, whose average age was 31 years. Half of them received the vaccine and the other half did not. At the same time, the effectiveness of the vaccine against severe disease, hospitalization, and death was not evaluated.
AstraZeneca said they are confident that the vaccine still protects against severe disease caused by B.1.351, especially after eight to 12 weeks.
A new mutation of the coronavirus was discovered in South Africa in early January. This strain spreads more quickly between people. The British version has the same properties.
Most mutations in viruses are harmless and can even destroy the host. But there are those that make the virus more dangerous or resistant to vaccines. It is now known that the mutations of the coronavirus found in Britain, Brazil, and South Africa are not the case. But future COVID-19 mutations could complicate the vaccination process.