MOSCOW (Sputnik) – South Africa is halting its vaccination plans involving the AstraZeneca vaccine, because it appears to be highly ineffective against the South African coronavirus strain, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has announced.
“From next week for the next four weeks we expect that there will be J&J vaccines, there will be Pfizer vaccines. So what will be available to the health workers will be those vaccines,” Mkhize said during a Sunday online briefing, adding that the “AstraZeneca vaccine will remain with us … up until the scientists give us clear indications as to what we need to do.”
The minister stressed that the vaccination program set to begin later this this month will proceed, but the strategy will need to be tweaked.
“We are still expecting that we will continue with our vaccination program,” Mkhize said, explaining that more clarity will emerge after a committee of scientists presents the results of the “recommendation study” on the AstraZeneca vaccine.
A study due to be released on Monday shows that the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine only offers limited protection against the South African strain of the coronavirus in mild and moderate COVID-19 cases.
According to The Financial Times, which released some of the study findings over the weekend, there were 2,025 participants, with a median age of 31. Half of them were given a placebo, while the other half got at least one dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. None of the participants died or were hospitalized.
An AstraZeneca spokesperson told The Financial Times that AstraZeneca had already started adapting its vaccine to the South African strain so that it is ready for fall deliveries, if needed.
According to Mkhize, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa is 1,476,135, with the country’s coronavirus death toll standing at 46,290.