South Africa to roll out AstraZeneca vaccine in steps to assess efficacy

·1-min read
A member of the medical staff holds a vial of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, in Melun

GENEVA (Reuters) - South Africa will roll out the AstraZeneca vaccine in a "stepped manner" to assess its efficacy in preventing severe illness, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, co-chair of South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, said on Monday.

South Africa said on Sunday it would put on hold its use of the AstraZeneca shot after research showing it was only minimally effective in preventing mild illness against a variant of the coronavirus now dominant in the country.

Karim said it was too early to say whether the AstraZeneca vaccine would still be effective in preventing serious disease, as there was not yet enough data on its effectiveness in older people against the variant.

South Africa would pause the rollout for now while determining the next steps, and could vaccinate 100,000 people with the shot to see how well it worked on preventing hospitalisations and deaths.

"We don't want to vaccinate people with a product which may not prevent hospitalisation or reduce disease," Karim said.

(Reporting by John Revill, Stephanie Nebehay, Emma Farge and Peter Graff; Editing by Mark Heinrich)