Scientists have said a new study has revealed that the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine coming to Malawi does not appear to offer protection against mild and moderate disease caused by the viral variant from South Africa which is confirmed in the country, but President Lazarus Chakwera the country should still prioritize preventing further infections.
In both the human trials and tests on the blood of those vaccinated, the jab showed significantly reduced efficacy against the 501Y.V2 viral variant, which is dominant in South Africa, according to the randomised, double-blind study that has dominated the British media.
“A two-dose regimen of [the vaccine] did not show protection against mild-moderate Covid-19 due to [the South African variant]”, the study says, adding that efficacy against severe Covid-19, hospitalisations and deaths was not yet determined.
The study, led by South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand and Oxford university, enrolled 2,026 HIV negative individuals, with a median age of 31. Half the group was given at least one dose of placebo, with the other half receiving at least one dose of vaccine.
But Prof Sarah Gilbert, Oxford lead vaccine developer, told the BBC on Sunday that vaccines should still protect against severe disease.
Speaking in a televised speech for his weekly briefs to update the nation on the Covid-19 fight, President Chakwera said the AstraZeneca vaccine coming to Malawi has 50% to 65% efficacy and that is high enough to save lives.
He said the vaccine also costs less than other vaccine types.
“Presently, there are at least eight different types of vaccine available around the world for protection against Covid-19. Seven of these vaccines, including the AstraZeneca vaccine, require two doses, so the type of vaccine we will receive here requires the same number of shots as most of the other types.
“A second area of interest is the efficacy of the vaccine. Different vaccine types vary in their efficacy, but all of them have an efficacy level above 50 percent. The vaccine type coming to Malawi has an average of 60 to 70 percent efficacy. Although this is a lower efficacy than that of five of the other vaccine types, it is high enough to save millions of lives. In fact, since our only goal is to save lives, the AstraZeneca vaccine has one great advantage over the other vaccines in this regard,” said Chakwera.
Notwithstanding, Chakwera said, Malawi government will continue monitoring the vaccine options as they are being developed, “so that weare ready to secure what is best for our country.”
Chakwera addressing the nation from Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe said considering the time it will take to roll out the vaccine across Malawi and considering the logistical and cultural challenges the country must overcome to do so, the best weapon against Covid-19 remains prevention.
“We need to stop healthy people from getting infected, because the rate of infection is still too high,” he said.
The Malawi leader said over the course of the past week, 2987 new infections were confirmed by the testing facilities across the country out of the 13 448 people who were tested.
“This represents a 22 percent positivity rate, and while it is lower than the 29 percent positivity rate from last week, it is still higher than the 0 to 5 percent rate we are aiming for. This is why we have decided to maintain the preventive measures that are in place to stop the spread of infections, including keeping schools closed for another two weeks.
“Admittedly, some of the preventive measures you are having to endure are difficult, because they are disruptive to your social life, your professional life, your academic life, and your economic life. But the continued drop in the rate of infection means that your compliance with the measures is making a difference, so let us keep running this race until we reach the finish line of zero infections,” said Chakwera.
President Chakwera said the hardship of preventing new infections is better than the hardship of treating them.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :