Coronavirus

How worried should we be about the South Africa variant?

BY Caitlin Allen   /  8 February 2021

South Africa has suspended its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, after new research prompted fears that the jab is less effective against the coronavirus strain first detected in the country, which now accounts for 90 per cent of the country’s cases.AstraZeneca’s jab was the first to reach South African soil last week, following the nation’s order of 1.5 million doses. But on Sunday, Dr Zweli Mkhize, the health minister, announced the vaccine would be put on hold and that instead healthcare workers are likely to receive Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines over the coming weeks. “The AstraZeneca vaccine will remain with us, until the scientists give us clear indications as to what we need to do,” he said.

But how worried should we be about the latest research?

It would be misguided to draw the conclusion that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine works on the South African strain and the AstraZeneca vaccine doesn’t. Crucially, unlike J&J’s study, the AstraZeneca study has only provided answers on mild to moderate illness.


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