Africa CDC says the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is safe

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The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) says the Oxford/AstraZeneca Vaccine is safe. However, it’s advising countries that have a significant circulation of the 501.V2 COVID-19 variant first discovered in South Africa to make preparations to rollout other vaccines instead.

AstraZeneca not so effective against variant first discovered in SA:


The Africa CDC says South Africa’s decision to pause its use of AstraZeneca doses will not change the continent’s plans to procure the vaccine as planned. Africa CDC is due to secure at least 600 million vaccine doses, including AstraZeneca doses.

Reaction to halting of AstraZeneca vaccine in SA:

Seven countries in Africa, including South Africa, have reported cases of the new 501Y.V2 COVID-19 strain.

South Africa’s paused its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine because of a small study suggesting it offers only minimal protection against mild and moderate disease from the variant discovered in the country. That’s prompted the Africa CDC to put out new guidelines.

Africa CDC Director, Dr. John Nkengasong, says countries that have reported cases of the 501Y.V2 strain should accelerate preparedness to introduce all vaccines that they have received.

“For countries that have reported the circulation of the South African variant, we recommend the acceleration of their preparedness to introduce all vaccines that have received emergency and use authorisation or approval by the regulatory authorities. Consideration should be given to the effectiveness of the vaccine against the variant that is the 501.V2 variant or any other circulating SARS variants in the continent.”

WHO recommendations

The WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation, Dr. Katherine O’Brien, however, recommends the AstraZeneca vaccine should still be used in such countries.

“There is a possible expectation that the vaccine will have possible impact/efficacy against severe disease albeit we don’t have the evidence in hand but there is possibility for that being the case,” O’Brien says.

WHO briefing on use of COVID-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca: 

Africa to go ahead with vaccinations

The Africa CDC says the concern about efficacy against mild and moderate disease caused by the variant that was discovered in South Africa will not dictate the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine across the whole continent.

Dr Nkengasong says Astrazeneca doses will be used to begin vaccinating health workers in Africa in the next few weeks after a private purchase by Africa’s telecom giant MTN group.

“The 7 million vaccine doses that the MTN supported through the $25 million that they gave were all targeting the AstraZeneca vaccine and those will begin to be distributed in the coming two weeks or so. We will still move ahead with that plan and make sure that we target countries that are not reported those variants yet. Again, we need to do this quickly and vaccinate quickly to arrest the spread of this variant. So that plan will still move forward. This is a good vaccine without the variant and the variant will only impact if it is overwhelming in the country so I think that is our recommendation,” says Nkengasong.

The Africa CDC is determined to press ahead with more purchasing of the vaccine, with 20 countries already signing up for an early procurement of doses.

South Africa led the continent to procure 270 million doses from AstraZeneca and Pfizer from the Serum Institute of India, and Johnson & Johnson. Of these, about 100 million will be from AstraZeneca – 50 million vaccine doses are expected in the continent between April and June.

Another 400 million vaccine doses will be procured through to next year by Africa as a bloc.

Countries have already begun receiving interim allocations of their doses from the COVAX facility. Most will be receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine and so far no one has rejected the COVAX allocation doses.

The WHO advises the benefits of rolling out the Oxford vaccine outweigh the possible costs.