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The hashtag #AstraZeneca trended on Twitter in South Africa on Monday following the announcement that the country would be switching up its vaccine strategy.
On Sunday, 7 February, the Department of Health and a group of medical experts announced that South Africa would halt the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
This follows a clinical trial showing that the vaccine has a greatly reduced efficacy against the newer variant of COVID-19, called 501Y.V2, which is predominant in South Africa.
“When we analysed individuals in terms of how well the vaccine worked against the variant, there was very little difference between the vaccine group and placebo group,” Professor Shabir Madhi, who led the local clinical trial, said.
The trial looked at its efficacy against mild to moderate infection. However, more study is required on its efficacy against severe infection.
As a result, the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been put on hold. This comes just one week after one million doses of the vaccine arrived in South Africa.
However, this doesn’t mean the doses will go to waste. Government is exploring ways South Africa can use the vaccine to prevent severe disease.
New vaccine strategy
In the meantime, government is looking to acquire other vaccines that have shown more effectiveness against the newer variant.
Newer vaccines continue to be developed from the mutated variants of COVID-19.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, an expert who addressed South Africans on the vaccine findings, said there is still hope.
“The next set of vaccines will be made from the 501Y.V2 variant and so they are likely to be effective against the 501Y.V2 variant. We are expecting two kinds of vaccines: the first are 501Y.V2 boosters and we have already heard about the good progress they are making on these boosters,” he said according to a statement.
“You will take the existing vaccine to give you immunity against the existing variants and then take this booster which will boost it in order to give you protection from 501Y.V2 variant.”
South Africa reacts on social media to AstraZeneca vaccine news
There were mixed reactions on social media about the news.
But many posts on Twitter also attempted to clear up misunderstandings around the information.
With over 16 000 tweets, #AstraZeneca was the third biggest Twitter trend in South Africa on Monday afternoon.
However, some tweets came from those overseas from those celebrating receiving their vaccines.
Feature image: Hakan Nural on Unsplash