South Africa halts use of Oxford Covid-19 vaccine over new variant

Johannesburg, Feb 8 (efe-epa).- The South African government said it is suspending its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after a study suggested it only had limited effect on a variation of the coronavirus that originated in the country.

Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize, along with several of the country’s experts, announced the decision in a virtual press conference late Sunday.

“It is temporary until we figure out the next step,” said Mkhize, who will work with his team on a new vaccination strategy in the worst-hit African country.

The decision to halt the AstraZeneca vaccine was made after a study developed by the University of Oxford in England, and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

The study’s results, show that the vaccine offered only 22% effectiveness against mild and moderate cases linked to the B.1.351 variant, according to a report in The Financial Times, which received an early look at the research.

The new variant was detected in South Africa in December and has since became the dominant form of the virus circulating in the country. This coronavirus variant is 50 percent more contagious than the original strain but not more deadly, according to the data collected so far.

It is still unknown whether the Oxford vaccine is effective in preventing severe cases of coronavirus because the study only included 2,000 relatively young and healthy trial subjects.South Africa has reported 1,476,135 Covid-19 cases so far, making it the hardest hit country by the pandemic in Africa.EFE-EPA


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