South Africa delay AstraZeneca jab over their new strain

Interesting development this evening. South Africa has put its roll-out of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on hold after a study showed “disappointing” results against its new Covid variant. Scientists say the strain accounts for 90% of new Covid cases in South Africa. The study, involving around 2,000 people, found the vaccine offered “minimal protection” against mild and moderate cases of Covid-19. South Africa has received 1m doses of the AstraZeneca jab and was due to start vaccinating people next week.

A traveller is tested for the coronavirus disease amid a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, at the Grasmere Toll Plaza in Lenasia, South Africa, January 2021
Oxford jab offers less S African protection against Covid-19

Speaking at an online news conference on today, South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said his government would wait for further advice on how best to proceed with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in light of the findings. The trial was carried out by the University of the Witwatersrand but has not yet been peer reviewed. In the meantime, he said, the government will offer vaccines produced by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in the coming weeks.

Prof Sarah Gilbert, Oxford’s lead vaccine developer, said vaccines should still protect against severe disease. She said developers were likely to have a modified version of the injection against the South Africa variant, also known as 501.V2 or B.1.351, later this year. click full article.

It is an indication of how worried the Government is on the South African strain, is the announcement on 2nd February of mass “surge testing” in a number of postcode areas where 11 cases of the variant have been tested with no links to foreign travel, obviously raising fears that it is spreading in the UK.

Map showing postcodes areas affected by "surge testing"

On-the-spot doorstep tests, home testing kits and mobile testing units are being deployed in a number of areas where adults will be encouraged to take tests whether or not they are experiencing symptoms – in a process known as “surge testing”.

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