South Africa halts AstraZeneca vaccinations over variant data

Written By: Kalden Ongmu WION
Johannesburg, South Africa Published: Feb 08, 2021, 07:03 AM(IST)

A test tube labeled with the vaccine is seen in front of AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken, September 9, 2020 Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

In a virtual briefing, health Minister Zweli Mkhize alongside South Africa’s top scientists and experts announced that the rollout of the 1 million AstraZeneca vaccine bought from India will be kept on hold until a committee of scientists decides on a way forward

South Africa faces a serious setback as scientists and experts announced that AstraZeneca vaccine is less effective against 501.Y.V2 covid variant first found in South Africa. 

In a virtual briefing, health Minister Zweli Mkhize alongside South Africa’s top scientists and experts announced that the rollout of the 1 million AstraZeneca vaccine bought from India will be kept on hold until a committee of scientists decides on a way forward. 

Also read: Oxford/AstraZeneca jab fails to prevent coronavirus from South African strain: Study

“AstraZeneca rollout on temporary hold. Awaiting clinical efficacy information,” the briefing presentation slide read. 

Instead, Minister Mkhize said, there will be an expedited rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for health workers in the next four weeks. 

Minister also clarified on why South Africa bought AstraZeneca vaccine. He said, they had some data that it could work well and the company could provide with jabs before it received its Covax jabs. 

Prof Abdool Karim also added that the only Covid-19 vaccine they had clinically tested is for Johnson & Johnson. He said they don’t yet have clinical data to show AstraZeneca vaccine can protect against severe disease caused by 501.Y.V2. 

South Africa received its first batch of one million AstraZeneca vaccine from Serum Institute of India on February 1. 

Mkhize said the AstraZeneca vaccine (bought from India) will not be sent back. Scientists will be concluding studies linked to the efficacy. They might be swapped out for newer stock as they expire in April, he added. 

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