Last week one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in South Africa to much fanfare and triggered a wave of hope that the country's stalled Covid-19 vaccination programme was now ready to commence with frontline healthcare workers as the first priority. However, in a serious setback, two issues have emerged that mean it is now unlikely that the AstraZeneca vaccines will be used at all - at this stage.
On Saturday night an article in the UK's Financial Times leaked results of efficacy trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine on participants in South Africa where the 501Y.V2 variant of SARS-Cov-2 is dominant.
A report on this trial's outcome was due to be released in South Africa on Monday by the University of the Witwatersrand's Prof Shabir Madhi, the trial's principal investigator.
The Financial Times headlines its story, "Oxford/AstraZeneca jab fails to prevent mild and moderate Covid from South African strain, study shows". The newspaper claims that in trials: "the jab showed significantly reduced efficacy against the 501Y.V2 viral variant, which is dominant in South Africa, according to the randomised, double-blind study ... "
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Then, quoting directly from the study: "A two-dose regimen of [the vaccine]...