Oxford / AstraZeneca COVID shot much less efficient towards South African variant: examine

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: COVID-19 Vaccinations in Basingstoke

(Reuters) – British drug maker AstraZeneca (NASDAQ 🙂 said on Saturday that its vaccine, developed with Oxford University, appears to offer limited protection against minor diseases caused by the South African variant of COVID-19, based on early data a study.

The study by the South African University of the Witwatersrand and Oxford University showed that the vaccine had significantly reduced effectiveness compared to the South African variant, according to a Financial Times report published earlier in the day.

Coronavirus variants currently most affected by scientists and public health experts include the so-called British, South African and Brazilian variants, which appear to be spreading faster than others.

"In this small Phase I / II study, early data showed limited efficacy against mild illnesses, mainly due to the South African variant B.1.351," an AstraZeneca spokesperson responded to the FT report.

"However, we could not correctly determine the effect against serious illnesses and hospital stays, since the test subjects were mostly young, healthy adults."

The company believed that its vaccine could protect against serious illness because the neutralizing antibody activity was similar to that of other COVID-19 vaccines.

While thousands of individual changes have occurred as the virus mutates into new variants, only a tiny minority is likely to matter or change the virus in any significant way, according to the British Medical Journal.

"Oxford University and AstraZeneca have begun adapting the vaccine to this variant and will rapidly advance clinical development so that it can be ready for delivery in the fall if needed," said the AstraZeneca spokesman.

The study, which included more than 2,000 people, was not peer-reviewed, according to the FT.

On Friday, Oxford said their vaccine had similar effectiveness against the UK variant of coronavirus as against the previously circulating variants.

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