South Africa halts AstraZeneca shots
South Africa will put on hold use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot in its vaccination programme after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the country’s dominant coronavirus variant.
There is no evidence that the Astrazeneca vaccine does not prevent death or serious illness, and South Africa has only imposed a temporary halt on using the vaccine, a British junior health minister said on Monday.
The government had intended to roll the AstraZeneca shot out to health care workers soon, after receiving 1 million doses produced by the Serum Institute of India on Monday. Instead, it will offer the vaccines produced by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in the coming weeks.
The AstraZeneca trial, involving some 2,000 people, found that the vaccine offered “minimal protection” against mild and moderate cases. The trial’s chief investigator, Prof Shabir Madhi, said it showed that “unfortunately, the AstraZeneca vaccine does not work against mild and moderate illness”.
South Africa has recorded almost 1.5 million coronavirus cases and more than 46,000 deaths since the pandemic began – a higher toll than any other country on the continent.