South Africa suspend plans to give COVID vaccine to health care workers

The company logo for pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S.

South Africa has suspended plans to inoculate its front-line health care workers with the AstraZeneca vaccine after a small clinical trial suggested that it isn’t effective in preventing mild to moderate illness from the variant dominant in the country.

South Africa received its first 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week and was expected to begin giving jabs to health care workers in mid-February. The disappointing early results indicate that an inoculation drive using the AstraZeneca vaccine may not be useful.

The trial results, which aren’t yet peer-reviewed, suggested the AstraZeneca vaccine “provides minimal protection against mild-moderate COVID-19 infection” among young adults exposed to the South Africa variant.

Oxford University and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg said in a statement that protection against more severe forms of the disease could not be assessed in the trial because those participating were at low risk.

The variant appears more infectious and is driving a deadly resurgence, accounting for more than 90% of COVID-19 cases, health minister Zweli Mkhize said Sunday night.

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