AstraZeneca vaccine less effective against SA strain: study

Published February 8, 2021
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine fails to prevent mild and moderate cases of the South African coronavirus strain. — Reuters/File
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine fails to prevent mild and moderate cases of the South African coronavirus strain. — Reuters/File

LONDON: The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine fails to prevent mild and moderate cases of the South African coronavirus strain, researchers said on Sunday.

The University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, which conducted the trial, said in a statement that the vaccine “provides minimal protection against mild-moderate Covid-19 infection” from the variant.

But in a full paper due to be published on Monday, AstraZeneca said that none of the 2,000 participants developed serious symptoms.

That could mean it will still have an effect on severe disease, although there is not yet enough data to make a definitive judgement.

The data, which has not yet undergone peer review, “appear to confirm the theoretical observation that mutations in the virus seen in South Africa will allow ongoing transmission of the virus in vaccinated populations,” it said.

“Protection against moderate-severe disease, hospitalisation or death could not be assessed in this study as the target population were at low risk.” But the vaccine developers in Britain said informally the results offered some hope that the vaccine could prevent deaths from the variant.

“We may not be reducing the total number of cases but there is still protection against deaths, hospitalisations and severe disease,” said Sarah Gilbert, who led the development of the vaccine with the Oxford Vaccine Group.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2021

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