The British vaccine developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca offers “limited protection against moderate forms of the disease (Covid-19) caused by the South African variant, in young adults”, a South African study revealed on Sunday, which did not is not focused on serious forms.
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“South African and British researchers have found that (…) the vaccine was much more effective against the original (strain) of the coronavirus” than against the variant, it is stated in a press release on the study of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, which has yet to be peer reviewed.
“The first results seem to confirm that the mutation of the virus detected in South Africa can be transmitted to the population already vaccinated”, he added.
This study, carried out on 2,000 volunteers aged on average 31 years, does not “make it possible to rule” on the effectiveness of the vaccine against severe forms of the disease, hospitalizations and deaths “because the target population was low. risk, ”judges the University of the Witwatersrand.
“We believe that our vaccine will still protect against severe forms of the disease, because the activity of neutralizing antibodies is similar to that of other Covid-19 vaccines that have been shown to be effective against severe forms, especially when the doses are spaced 8 to 12 weeks apart ”, qualified a spokesperson for AstraZeneca, contacted by AFP.
According to Sarah Gilbert, a researcher leading vaccine development at the University of Oxford, it may also take “some time” before it can be determined whether the vaccine is effective against this strain – which is increasingly present in the UK. – in the elderly.
“A version (of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine) with the South African variant sequence is in preparation,” Gilbert told the BBC on Sunday morning, adding that researchers “would very much like” it to be ready for the fall. .
“These results force us to rethink our way of approaching the pandemic,” said Shabir Madhi, professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, in charge of the study in South Africa.
To combat the spread of the South African strain, British Secretary of State for Vaccines Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News on Sunday morning that the government intended to continue its mass vaccination program “as quickly as possible”, and put in place of “hyperlocal tests” in areas where it is detected.
The country in Europe most bereaved by the pandemic with more than 112,000 deaths, the United Kingdom is counting on vaccination to get out of the strict containment that came into force in early January in order to fight against an outbreak of contaminations attributed to a more contagious variant that appeared in the south-east of England.
More than 12 million people have so far received their first dose.
The AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine has been approved by several other countries and by the European Union. But some countries have preferred to recommend it only for those under 65, for lack of sufficient data on older people.