Australian health minister says AstraZeneca vaccine still up to ‘fundamental task’ after South Africa halts rollout

Australia's Minister for Health has rushed to reassure citizens about the safety and efficacy of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, after a preliminary study in South Africa showed its poor results against the local strain.

South Africa halted the rollout of AstraZeneca vaccine in the wake of a disappointing new study that suggested the vaccine is only 22 percent effective against mild and moderate cases of the local variant of the virus.

Since the study was performed on some 2,000 mostly young and healthy volunteers, who are less likely to develop debilitating symptoms, the efficacy in severe cases is unclear, while the overall results are preliminary.

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Nevertheless, the news disturbed many in Australia, which has ordered 53 million of AstraZeneca jabs and was expected to approve its use in the coming days. Australia's Minister for Health went on national TV to reassure the public there was no reason to worry.  

“There is currently no evidence to indicate a reduction in the effectiveness of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines in preventing severe disease and death. That is the fundamental task, to protect the health,” Greg Hunt told reporters in Canberra.

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