The African Union’s disease control body said on Thursday that it was not “walking away” from AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, after trial data showed it had greatly reduced efficacy against the coronavirus variant dominant in South Africa.
Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong told a news conference that more work needed to be done to understand how the vaccine worked against the more contagious 501Y.V2 variant first identified in South Africa late last year.
South Africa has paused the rollout of AstraZeneca shots to health workers and said on Wednesday it could seek to sell or swap doses of the vaccine.
Nkengasong added that six countries other than South Africa had reported the presence of the variant. This has alarmed health experts who have raised concerns about its ability to potentially evade the immune response generated by prior exposure to the coronavirus or vaccines.
The six countries are Botswana, Comoros, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia
“For countries that have reported the circulation of the 501Y.V2 variant, we recommend the acceleration of their preparedness to introduce all vaccines that have received emergency use authorisation or approval by regulatory authorities. Consideration should be given to the effectiveness of the vaccine against the 501Y.V2 variant.”
Separately, Kenya said it would move ahead with plans to use the AstraZeneca vaccine.