Molefe Seeletsa
Digital Journalist
2 minute read
25 Mar 2021
10:19 am

‘No evidence AstraZeneca vaccines would be effective on SA variant’

Molefe Seeletsa

South Africa recently concluded the sale of the soon to expire 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines to the AU.

A container of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Picture: AFP

The chairperson of the ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19 vaccines, professor Barry Schoub, has defended the sale of the AstraZeneca vaccines to the Africa Union, saying there was no evidence the vaccine would have been effective against the South Africa’s Covid-19 variant.

On Sunday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced South Africa had concluded the sale of the soon to expire 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines to the AU, with his department receiving the full purchase price almost two weeks ago.

Speaking on Power 98.7, Schoub said the decision to sell the vaccines was not easy due to the fact South Africa had received 1 million doses and further considering that the country might be hit by a third wave of Covid-19 infections.

ALSO READ: Here are the countries that have halted use of the AstraZeneca jab

However, he said the sale needed to happen since the AstraZeneca vaccines were not as effective against the new variant, scientifically known as 501Y.V2.

“The problem is we started getting signals there would be an issue with the AstraZeneca and our [Covid-19] variant. I think this is the overriding problem,” he said.

Schoub said it was worrying that the vaccine was not effective and people needed to keep in mind that about 95% of Covid-19 cases were made up of the new variant.

“Antibodies reproduced from people who have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, there’s almost no neutralising of the virus variant at all. That was an extremely worrying signal.

“We don’t know if it’s going to be effective against severe disease. There is no data.”

The roll-out of the 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine was halted in February after preliminary research showed it to be less effective against the new variant.

The vaccines are also set to expire at the end of April.

READ MORE: Do the benefits of the AstraZeneca jab outweigh the risks?

Schoub further said there was no evidence that the AstraZeneca vaccine would have been effective.

“We need to have evidence. We always have evidence with whatever we’re going to do. And the problem is not only do we not have evidence that it is going to [work].

“There’s a lot of signals that it may well not work from the laboratory studies. And also the study on the mild infection, it was poor in its efficacy in protecting against mild infection and it’s very difficult to extrapolate there is going to be a significant effect on severe disease,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) has since approved the Section 21 application for the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

Additional reporting by Siyanda Ndlovu

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