South Africa on Sunday halted the use of AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine, after evidence emerged that it did not protect clinical-trial participants from mild to moderate illness.
South Africa received one million doses of coronavirus on February 1, hoping to begin massive vaccinations and contain the disease in Africa’s most affected nation.
But, the findings that the vaccine was not effective against the more contagious virus variant that was first identified there a few months ago is a blow to South Africa.
Scientists in South Africa said people who had been infected by the older variant of the virus were not also protected against the new variant even after vaccination with AstraZeneca vaccine.
More than 46,000 people have died in South Africa, the highest death toll in Africa.
There are fears that the new variant known as B.1.351 could infect and kill more people in South Africa and in the 32 countries where it has already spread.
Scientists did not say whether the astraZeneca vaccine protected people against severe disease from the new variant since most participants were young and less likely to become severely ill.
This made it difficult for scientists to know how the vaccine behaves in older people who are more vulnerable.