AstraZeneca vaccine has major role to play, lead South Africa investigator says

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COVID-19 vaccinations at the Foch hospital in Suresnes, near Paris

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The lead investigator on the South African trial of AstraZeneca's vaccine said he believed the vaccine had a major role to play in Africa and globally, despite data showing it offered minimal protection against mild-to-moderate COVID-19 disease by the country's dominant virus variant.

Shabir Madhi from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg told Reuters he would begin rolling out the 1 million AstraZeneca doses already in the country immediately, since they have an expiry date in April and it would be reckless to waste them.

South African health officials said on Sunday that they were putting AstraZeneca vaccinations on hold temporarily while they sought scientific advice on how to proceed. Vaccinations had been due to start soon, after the first vaccine doses arrived by plane from India last week.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Alison Williams)