healthcareBL Premium reports that the SA government is scrambling to reorient its Covid-19 vaccination plans after new evidence emerged on Sunday that AstraZeneca’s vaccine does not protect people against mild to moderate disease caused by the new variant detected in SA late last year.  

This vaccine is the cornerstone of the first phase of SA’s Covid immunisation strategy.  The first phase aims to administer vaccines to SA’s 1.25-million health-care workers.  "It is a temporary issue, until we figure out the next steps.  The plan is to find out from scientists how to use it going forward," Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a late night briefing.  Meetings will be taking place on Monday with local and international scientists to chart the way forward.  The government is hoping to be able to press ahead and give the AstraZeneca shots to health-care workers while evaluating it in the field to check whether it protects them against severe disease, hospitalisation and death.  The safety of the vaccine has already been established.  At the same time, scientists are planning to expedite the use of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, while evaluating that too in the field.  The results of the preliminary analysis also appear to confirm scientists’ fears that the mutations in the variant will allow transmission of the virus even among people who have been vaccinated.  SA’s Covid-19 vaccination strategy currently aims to reach 40-million adults to achieve population immunity, at an estimated cost of between R12bn and R20bn.


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