South Africa suspends AstraZeneca vaccine citing poor protection against new strain in pilot trial

The jab from AstraZeneca should have been the vaccine for Africa because of easy storage and transport. While the RNA vaccines from competitors Pfizer/Biontech and Moderna have to be stored at sub-zero temperatures, the adenovirus-based AstraZeneca vaccine is stable for months at 4°C. However, hopes now fade as efficacy in a pilot study involving 2000 people (mostly health-care workers) has been shown to be less than 25%. Researchers sequenced the virus from trial participants that got infected in spite of having gotten the vaccine and found a strong relationship between vaccine failure and new South Africa Mutant B.1.351.

Source: Science Magazine

UPDATE Feb 28, 2021: Christian Drosten, a German expert on Coronaviruses discussed the preprint that was the basis for this Science article on February 16 in his bi-weekly podcast appearance on “Coronavirus Update” and put these findings in a slightly different context by pointing out some important details. Based on this study, a protection against “serious” COVID-19 illness (meaning requiring hopsitalization) by the AstraZeneca vaccine cannot be evaluated, since none of the participants in the vaccinated or placebo groups became seriously ill. The findings about a 25% risk reduction in the vaccinated group only apply to mild and moderate disease, and it is still possible, that the vaccine might prevent serious disease. It should also be mentioned, that the leading athor of this study is also chairing the comission in South Africa that made the decision to suspend the AstraZeneca vaccination program in the country. Read my post from February 27 about my own vaccination with the AstraZeneca shot, as well as further developments on this vaccine.