South African health officials said on Sunday they were putting AstraZeneca vaccinations on hold temporarily
THE LEAD investigator on the South African trial of AstraZeneca’s vaccine said he believed the vaccine had a major role to play in Africa and globally, despite data showing it offered minimal protection against mild-to-moderate Covid-19 disease by the country’s dominant virus variant.
Shabir Madhi from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg told Reuters that he would begin rolling out the one million AstraZeneca doses already in the country immediately, since they expire in April and it would be reckless to waste them.
“It doesn’t make any sense to have one million doses of vaccine available to us which are known to be safe and to not start distributing it at least for high-risk groups,” Madhi said in an interview.
South African health officials said on Sunday they were putting AstraZeneca vaccinations on hold temporarily while they sought scientific advice on how to proceed. Vaccinations had been due to start soon, after the first vaccine doses arrived by plane from India last week.
The country, which has recorded the most coronavirus infections on the African continent and over 46,000 deaths, aims to vaccinate 40 million people, or two-thirds of its population, to reach some level of herd immunity.
Madhi said it was likely the AstraZeneca shot would protect against severe Covid-19, since it was developed using a similar technology to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which had shown to be effective in preventing severe Covid-19.