LONDON: Western governments rushed to offer support for the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination after South Africa halted its roll-out when research showed it offered minimal protection against mild infection from a variant spreading there.
South Africa announced its pause after a study found that the AstraZeneca vaccine provided only minimal protection against mild or moderate infection from the B.1.351 variant. “This study confirms that the coronavirus will find ways to continue to spread in vaccinated populations, as expected,” said Andrew Pollard, chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial. “But, taken with the promising results from other studies in South Africa, vaccines may continue to ease the toll on healthcare systems by preventing severe disease.”
French health minister Olivier Veran voiced support for the AstraZeneca vaccine, arguing it provided sufficient protection against “nearly all the variants”. German health minister Jens Spahn said current evidence suggests all three vaccines approved in Europe — which include AstraZeneca — provided effective protection against serious infections. “We think that both the vaccines that we’re currently using are effective in, as I say, in stopping serious disease and death,” UK PM Boris Johnson said. Britain also uses the Pfizer shot. Australia is expected approve the use of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine within days and expressed confidence in it. “There is no evidence to indicate a reduction in the effectiveness of both Astra-Zeneca or Pfizer vaccines in preventing severe disease and death. That is the fundamental task, to protect health,” health minister Greg Hunt said.