South Africa abandons AstraZeneca vaccine rollout after it’s shown to be only minimally effective against its more virulent variant
By William Booth and Carolyn Y. Johnson
LONDON — South Africa will suspend use of the coronavirus vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca after researchers found it provided “minimal protection” against mild to moderate coronavirus infections caused by the new variant first detected in that country.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said Sunday that the rollout will be paused while scientists assess the data and determine a way forward. Officials had been eager to begin vaccinating health-care workers with the shots after 1 million doses arrived last week.
The data, disclosed at a news conference Sunday, showed that once the variant became dominant in the country in November, the vaccine provided no significant protection against illness — although all the cases of disease were mild or moderate. There were 19 cases of covid-19 caused by the variant among people who received the vaccine and 20 cases among people who got a placebo. That suggests the vaccine was 10 percent effective, but the difference could have been due to chance.