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Minggu, 07 Februari 2021

South Africa to suspend rollout of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine - ABC News

South Africa was set to suspend the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after trial data showed the jab offered limited protection against mild disease caused by B.1.351, the coronavirus variant first identified in the country.

Early data from an Oxford University study suggested the AstraZeneca vaccine offered only "minimal protection" against mild disease caused by the South Africa variant.

But the study, which had not yet been peer-reviewed, involved just 2,000 people with an average age of 31.

The vaccine's lead researcher Sarah Gilbert said on Sunday (local time) the company expected to have a modified jab to cope with the South Africa coronavirus variant by September, despite its belief the vaccine would still protect "against severe disease".

Public health officials are concerned about the South Africa variant because it contains a mutation of the virus' characteristic spike protein, which is targeted by existing vaccines.

South Africa's Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize, said "more work" was needed on the vaccine.

The country received one million doses last week and was to begin inoculating the population in coming days.

"We do believe our vaccine will still protect against severe disease, as neutralising antibody activity is equivalent to other COVID-19 vaccines that have demonstrated activity against more severe disease, particularly when the dosing interval is optimised to eight to 12 weeks," a statement from AstraZeneca read.

Responding to the reports, Australia's Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Sydney radio station 2GB on Monday he was not concerned about the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca jab.

Man in coat and mask holds large green bag out toward open door
Mass testing is underway but experts say simply closing the borders isn't a long-term solution to fighting the spread of COVID-19.(AP: Matt Dunham)

"What we've seen is additional data coming out of the UK recently, I spoke with the UK health secretary in recent days — that's their health minister equivalent — they're having very strong results," he said.

"In terms of particular variants, particular countries, the world is learning about those with all vaccines.

Caution urged over study results

Health officials in Britain are also trying to contain the spread of the South Africa variant amid concerns that it is more contagious.

More than 100 cases of the South African variant have been found in the UK.

"We have a version [of the vaccine] with the South African spike sequence in the works," Ms Gilbert said

"It looks very likely that we can have a new version ready to use in the autumn."

Robin Shattock, a scientist who is leading the coronavirus vaccine research at Imperial College London, urged caution about the study's early findings.

But he said it was "concerning to some extent that we're seeing that it's not effective against mild or moderate disease".

UK has vaccinated almost 12 million people

Authorities in England last week went house-to-house to administer COVID-19 testing in eight areas where the South Africa variant is believed to be spreading, after a handful of cases were found in people who had no contact with the country or anyone who travelled there.

The testing blitz is a bid to snuff out the variant before it spreads widely and undermines the UK's vaccination rollout.

Britain has seen Europe's deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with over 112,000 confirmed deaths, but it has embarked on a speedier vaccination plan than the neighbouring European Union.

So far the UK has given a first coronavirus vaccine jab to about 11.5 million people.

AP/Reuters

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2021-02-07 22:06:00Z
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