The South African Ministry of Health issues an important decision
An official source within the Ministry of Health in South Africa announced that after many trials, they have stopped the introduction of the Corona virus vaccine from AstraZeneca due to the danger of the vaccine to citizens in South Africa.
During a briefing on Sunday, South Africa's Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize said the suspension would be temporary as scientists figure out how to deploy the AstraZeneca vaccine more effectively. Mkhize said South Africa will press ahead with vaccines made by Pfizer / BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson.
Sunday indicated that two doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine provided "minimal protection" against mild and moderate Covid-19 from the variant first identified in South Africa.
The study, which has not yet been published, involved about 2,000 volunteers with an average age of 31 years. About half of them got the vaccine and the other half got a placebo, which did nothing.
Researchers said in a press release that the virus neutralization against variant B.1.351 "significantly decreased" compared to the previous coronavirus strain. Vaccine effectiveness against severe Covid-19, hospitalization and death has not been evaluated.
Details of the study, conducted by researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and others as well as from the University of Oxford, were shared in a press release. Oxford said the results have been submitted for peer review and a preliminary version will be released soon.
In a statement Sunday, an AstraZeneca spokesperson said the company is "working closely with the South African Department of Health on how best to support the assessment against severe disease for the B.1.351 variant and to begin bringing this vaccine to South Africa. People must prove their success".
The company believes its vaccine will still protect against severe disease from the new variant B.1.351, especially when the dosing period is from eight to 12 weeks, the statement said.
In a previous statement, the company said it was working with the University of Oxford to adapt the vaccine against the B.1.351 variant so that it would be ready for delivery in the fall if needed.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's chief technical officer for Covid-19, said Sunday that the WHO's Independent Vaccine Committee will meet on Monday to discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine and what the new study means for future vaccines.