Infectious Disease

South Africa halts AstraZeneca vaccine launch attributable to preliminary efficacy information

February 08, 2021

2 min read

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Mkhize does not report any relevant financial information. Healio could not confirm any information for Karim or Pollard at the time of publication.

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South Africa stopped rollout of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine after preliminary data showed it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate diseases caused by the dominant variant common in the country.

The announcement was made on Sunday by the South African Minister of Health True Mkhize, MBChB.

COVID-19 sign

The South African government has stopped rolling out AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. Photo credit: Adobe Stock

According to researchers from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, who is conducting a study of the vaccine in South Africa, early data from a study of 2,000 patients between the ages of 18 and 65 showed a significant decrease in the vaccine’s neutralizing activity against the SARS -CoV-2 variant , first identified in South Africa, B.1.351, after administration of two doses.

The researchers noted that the study did not evaluate the effectiveness of the vaccine against serious diseases from the variant. The vaccine showed high efficacy against wild-type SARS-CoV-2, they said.

The results were only published in a press release from the university, but submitted as a peer print article before the review.

Andrew J. Pollard, FRCPCH, PhD, FMedSci

Andrew Pollard

“This study confirms that the pandemic coronavirus is expected to find ways to spread further in vaccinated populations. However, given the encouraging results of other studies in South Africa, for example with a similar viral vector, vaccines could further alleviate the burden of vaccination on health systems by preventing serious diseasesAndrew Pollard, BBS, PhD, Professor of Pediatric Infection and Immunity and Principal Investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Study, said in the press release.

B.1.351 is one of several new SARS-CoV-2 variants that are in circulation worldwide. It was first identified in the US last month and described by the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony S. Fauci, MD, and other than the most worrisome SARS-CoV-2 variant. The US introduced travel restrictions in response to the variants, although experts have warned that these measures will continue to spread.

Experts have emphasized that vaccination is the best countermeasure against the emerging variants. Speaking in a press conference at the White House on Monday, Fauci said vaccines had been shown to be effective against another variant, first identified in the UK and expected to be the most dominant SARS-CoV-2 virus in the US by March, the national The strategy is to have as many people as possible vaccinated before variant B.1.351 dominates.

South Africa COVID-19 Adviser Salim Abdool Karim, MB BCh, PhD, noted that future vaccines are likely to have broader coverage to protect against variants, but that their development “will take a little longer”.

“We can continue our rollout [of the AstraZeneca-Oxford] Vaccine, but we have to do it wisely, taking a step-by-step approach, ”he said, according to a protocol from the South African Ministry of Health.

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Carlos del Rio, MD)

Carlos del Rio, MD

The data are quite worrying as they suggest that a two-dose regimen of the vaccine offers minimal protection against mild / moderate COVID-19 infection with variant B.1.351. The authors did not rate the vaccine’s effects on serious illness, hospitalizations, and death. Overall, this is worrying, but I need to see more data.

Carlos del Rio, MD

Member of the editorial team for infectious diseases

Excellent professor of medicine

Executive Associate Dean

Emory University School of Medicine

Disclosure: Del Rio reports that he is an investigator in Moderna’s vaccine study.

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