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South Africa has been forced to temporarily shelve their supplies of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after data revealed it offered limited protection against the mutated coronavirus strain found in the country.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the government is now waiting for scientific advice on what to do next.
"When new information is brought to light and viruses change and mutate, decisions need to be made," Mkhize said.
"This is possibly why the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout is on hold for now. In the next few weeks, South Africa will have the J&J and Pfizer vaccine."
A press release issued overnight by the University of Oxford said a study of about 2,000 people with an average age of 31 found a two-dose regimen of the AstraZeneca vaccine "provides minimal protection against mild-moderate Covid-19 infection from the B.1.351 coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa."
The data, which has not yet undergone peer review, "appears to confirm the theoretical observation that mutations in the virus seen in South Africa will allow ongoing transmission of the virus in vaccinated populations."
The release said: "Protection against moderate-severe disease, hospitalisation or death could not be assessed in this study as the target population were at low risk.
"Efficacy against severe Covid-19 infection from this variant was not assessed."
The Australian government has already secured 53.8 million doses of that particular vaccine, but it's important to note this is just one of several vaccines to be available in the country, and the South African strain has not yet reached our shores.
Researchers at the University of Oxford have said they are already in the process of creating a second generation of the jab.
"Work is already underway at the University of Oxford and in conjunction with partners to produce a second generation of the vaccine which has been adapted to target variants of the coronavirus with mutations similar to B.1.351, if it should prove necessary to do so," a statement read.
An AstraZeneca spokesman also said the company has started adapting its vaccine against the variant and "will advance rapidly through clinical development so that it is ready for autumn delivery should it be needed."
Meanwhile, Australia's Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Sydney radio station 2GB on Monday that he wasn't too concerned about the effectiveness of the jab.
"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.
"What we're seeing is very significant results with the vaccines that have been approved with up to 100 percent protection on the early data that we've seen in the clinical trial results for serious illness and hospitalisation."
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