AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine shows less effect against South African variant

FILE PHOTO: The logo of AstraZeneca is seen on medication packages in a pharmacy in London April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/File Photo
AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine appears to have shown limited effect against the variant discovered in South Africa.

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AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine appears to have shown limited protection against mild disease caused by the variant first identified in South Africa, according to early data from a trial.

The efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine which is developed by the University of Oxford in collaboration with British drugmaker, AstraZeneca Plc, against severe Covid-19 cases, hospitalization and deaths, is yet to be determined.

report from Reuters says that a study from South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand and Oxford University showed the vaccine had significantly reduced efficacy against the South African variant, according to a Financial Times (FT), which first reported it earlier in the day.

Public health experts and scientists have expressed concerns over the South African, British and Brazilian new Covid-19 variants, which is reported to spread faster than others.

An AstraZeneca spokesman, in response to the FT report, said, “In this small phase I/II trial, early data has shown limited efficacy against mild disease primarily due to the B.1.351 South African variant.’

The newspaper report said none of the over 2,000 participants in the study had died or was hospitalized

He said, “However, we have not been able to properly ascertain its effect against severe disease and hospitalization given that subjects were predominantly young healthy adults.’’

The company’s spokesman also said that the firm believes its vaccine could protect against severe disease, as the neutralizing antibody activity was equivalent to that of other COVID-19 vaccines that have demonstrated protection against severe disease, particularly when the dosing interval is optimized to 8-12 weeks.

Going further, the Drugmaker’s Spokesman said, “Oxford University and AstraZeneca have started adapting the vaccine against this variant and will advance rapidly through clinical development so that it is ready for Autumn delivery should it be needed.’’

The Financial Times said that the study which involved 2,026 people with half of them forming the placebo group, has not been peer-reviewed.

  • The new variant of the coronavirus disease first identified in South Africa is fast emerging as a new threat to the prospect of putting an end to the pandemic globally as some countries roll out initial vaccine doses.
  • The more contagious strain of the coronavirus, which has now been detected in the US, has raised concerns over how it will respond to Covid-19 vaccines and whether people who already had the disease could get it again from the new strain.
  • The discovery and spread of the South African variant coincided with a powerful surge in infection rate in the country, with researchers believing that the new variant is around 50% more contagious.
  • On Friday Oxford said their vaccine has similar efficacy against the British coronavirus variant as it does to the previously circulating variants.
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