Monday/ the B.1.351 strain is trouble

The AstraZeneca vaccine ran into trouble in South Africa.
Preliminary findings, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, of a study of around 2,000 participants (median age 31), were disappointing. The vaccine had been showing a 75% efficacy against mild to moderate COVID cases, before the B.1.351 strain became dominant in South Africa. These days, 90% of new infections in SA are of the new strain. For these new infections, the efficacy seems to have dropped to just 22% percent, based on 42 symptomatic cases. The 42 cases is too small a number to draw firm conclusions, but it’s a big red flag, for sure.

South African health authorities have now put the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine on hold. They are negotiating with Johnson & Johnson for 20 million doses, and trying to ascertain if there is value in giving shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine to younger people.

One million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine (produced in India) arrived in South Africa last week. Testing from October showed 75% efficacy, but there seems to be a dramatic drop in efficacy against the B.1.351 strain of the virus that is dominant in the country now.  [Picture from South African newspaper The Sowetan]

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