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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 The analysis of roughly 2,000 adults not yet been peer-reviewed.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.

Go deeper

Feb 7, 2021 - Sports

How the NFL countered COVID-19

Fireworks in Tampa Bay ahead of the Super Bowl. Photo: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The NFL's giant COVID-19 experiment ends Sunday with the improbable feat of an on-time Super Bowl, capping a season with no canceled games.

Why it matters: The season suggests that with the right resources, safety measures and cooperation — all of which have been lacking in the general U.S. response — life can go on during the pandemic without uncontrolled spread of the virus. 

57 mins ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.

Mitt Romney calls Ray Dalio's China investments a "sad moral lapse"

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 7. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday criticized billionaire Ray Dalio's investments in China, writing in a tweet that "his feigned ignorance of China's horrific abuses and rationalization of complicit investments there is a sad moral lapse."

Driving the news: Romney's comments come after Dalio's firm, Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, raised $1.3 billion in November for a new private fund in China, Bloomberg reports.