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South Africa Stops Rollout of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 Vaccine After Shot Falters Against Variant

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South Africa is halting its rollout of the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, the country’s minister of health said Sunday, following a new analysis that suggests the shot “provides minimal protection” against mild disease caused by the new coronavirus variant circulating in South Africa.

Two top virologists advising the government said during a press conference that the pause was necessary. They said South Africa would institute a new process in which vaccines are initially studied in a research phase to try and determine that each vaccine reduces Covid hospitalizations in South Africa despite the widespread new variant there.

“The AstraZeneca vaccine rollout needs to be put on a temporary halt while we get the clinical efficacy information in,” said Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist at Columbia University and part of a commission advising the South African government. “And the way that we can do that is with the new approach to rollout.”

Barry Schoub, chair of South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on vaccines, struck a similar note.

“I think we just need to maybe suspend use of AstraZeneca, but investigate it more and more fully to see, can we utilize it more effectively,” he said.