Feb 7, 2021 - Health

South Africa halts AstraZeneca vaccine rollout

A person in PPE administers a COVID swab test
A a local health official takes a throat coronavirus swab test in a Mamelodi township, east of Pretoria, South Africa, on Jan. 20. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images

South Africa stopped the distribution of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine on Sunday, after researchers found that the vaccine "provides minimal protection" against infection from the new strain first identified in the country, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: A halted vaccine rollout is a huge setback for South Africa as it struggles to curb the spread of the virus and its variant and the country approaches 50,000 deaths.

  • The variant has concerned experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, since preliminary findings suggest the strain could interfere with monoclonal antibodies.
  • 1 million doses arrived in the country last week, according to the New York Times.

What they found: Researchers from Oxford and the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa found that AztraZeneca's vaccine "provides minimal protection" against infection from the new variant, Oxford said in a press release on Sunday. The analysis of roughly 2,000 adults not yet been peer-reviewed.

What to watch: Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in an online briefing that the government would not proceed until scientists advised them on the best next steps, per Reuters.

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