The Chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 vaccines, Professor Barry Schoub, has suggested that the rollout of AstraZeneca’s vaccine should be suspended.  He was participating in a media briefing by the Department of Health and scientists to update South Africans on COVID-19 vaccines.

The briefing was held after AstraZeneca’s announcement that its vaccine only offers limited protection against mild disease caused by the variant that has been discovered in South Africa.

Prof Schoub says more studies on the vaccine need to be conducted.

“The AstraZeneca vaccine study Prof Madhi did, provides some rather disappointing initial studies. But as he pointed out, there may well still be effective utilisation of AstraZeneca. For example, we need to look at the cell mediated immune responses; we may need to look at combination of AZ vaccine with other vaccines which may in fact give a synergistically good response. So I just think we need to maybe suspend use of AstraZeneca, but investigate it more fully, can we utilise it more effectively.”

South Africa has already bought 1.5 million doses of the vaccine from the Serum Institute in India, of which one million doses arrived in South Africa. The rollout of the vaccine to vaccinate healthcare workers will start this week.

Earlier in the briefing, Professor of Vaccinology at Wits University, Shabir Madhi, said the AstraZeneca vaccine trial that was done by his team in the country, could not give full proof of the vaccine’s efficacy against the new 501v2 variant.

Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize says they have chosen the AstraZeneca vaccine due to promising results and its flexibility.

Mkhize says South Africa is ready to rollout the vaccine that has been acquired. However, local scientists should look into this issue.

Minister Zweli Mkhize gives update on the COVID-19 vaccine: 

COVID-19 statistics paint a good picture

Meanwhile, Senior Researcher at the CSIR Dr Ridhwaan Suliman says the COVID-19 statistics continue to paint a good picture about the pandemic in South Africa. He says the number of new cases recorded in the past week have halved.

This as the country prepares to roll-out the coronavirus vaccine from this coming week, a move which raised some concerns especially about the efficacy of the vaccine.

Dr Suliman says although infections are decreasing, we are not out of the woods yet.

South Africa’s COVID-19 cases update with Dr Ridhwaan Suliman: