Malawi getting Covid-19 vaccine which is less effective against SA variant SA suspends rollout

Oxford/AstraZeneca, the Covid-19 vaccine which Malawi is getting, offers limited protection against the Covid-19 variant which was first detected in South Africa and has also been found in Malawi.

South Africa has since suspended rollout of the vaccine after a study revealed that it is less effective against the variant.

Malawi will receive 1.5 million doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine which will be given to about 750,000 people.

The country has experienced a rise in Coronavirus cases over the past month with more than 20,000 Coronavirus cases and over 650 deaths recorded over the past five weeks. The government revealed last month that Malawi has the Coronavirus mutation first detected in South Africa.

However, the vaccine Malawi has procured may not effectively protect Malawians from the mutation which spreads very quickly.

South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand and Oxford University conducted a study involving 2,000 participants and early data shows that AstraZeneca offers limited protection.

“In this small phase I/II trial, early data has shown limited efficacy against mild disease primarily due to the B.1.351 South African variant,” an AstraZeneca spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that Oxford University and AstraZeneca have started adapting the vaccine against the variant and will advance rapidly through clinical development so that the vaccine should be ready when needed.

Meanwhile, South Africa has suspended rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine following the study. The country planned to administer the vaccine to health workers.

“When new information is brought to light and viruses change and mutate, decisions need to be made. This is possibly why the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout is on hold for now. In the next few weeks, South Africa will have the J&J and Pfizer vaccine,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

On Sunday, President Lazarus Chakwera defended the AstraZeneca vaccine saying it has 60 – 70 percent efficacy and is cheaper than other vaccines as it costs four United States Dollars per dose.

He added that the vaccine has been approved by World Health Organisation(WHO), European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Chakwera, however, said Malawi will continue to analyse other vaccines which can be administered to people in the country.