AstraZeneca's vaccine may not effectively protect against South Africa variant, small trial shows

Officials in South Africa said Feb. 7 they are halting the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford after a small clinical trial showed it doesn’t appear to protect against mild to moderate cases from B.1.351, the variant of the novel coronavirus that is circulating in the country.

The trial that prompted the country's decision to suspend the rollout of AstraZeneca's vaccine was a small one with a median participant age of 31, so it isn't reliable enough to draw any unequivocal conclusions about the vaccine's effectiveness against the South Africa variant, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Thirty-nine participants in the trial were found to be infected with  B.1.351, with 19 having received AstraZeneca's vaccine and 20 having received a placebo, Shabir Madhi, PhD, the trial's principal investigator told The Wall Street Journal. Dr. Madhi said this data suggests the vaccine has an efficacy rate of about 10 percent in protecting against mild to moderate COVID-19 cases caused by the variant, although he noted the parameters of the trial were too limited to produce statistically significant data.

Before the research, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, was released Feb. 7, South Africa had planned to administer its first shipment of one million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine to healthcare workers later in February.

Sarah Gilbert, PhD, the University of Oxford's lead vaccine developer, told the BBC Feb. 7 that a modified version of the vaccine will likely be produced by fall to fight against the South Africa variant.

Another small study, which has also yet to be peer-reviewed, was published Feb. 5 in The Lancet's preprint server. It said AstraZeneca's vaccine is effective in protecting against COVID-19 cases caused by B.1.1.7, the variant first identified in the U.K. It showed the vaccine triggered an immune response against the U.K. variant in 75 percent of COVID-19 cases that showed symptomatic infection and about two-thirds of cases that didn’t have symptoms, compared to its efficacy rate of about 84 percent of symptomatic cases and 81 percent of all cases caused by older versions of the novel coronavirus.

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Scientists to test mixing different COVID-19 vaccines

 

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