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[EXPLAINER] Here are the facts - the good and bad - about AstraZeneca vaccine

8 February 2021 1:32 PM

Laura López González, Deputy Editor at Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism, explains.

A Sunday night a special panel led by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize explained that the efficacy of the 1million doses currently in South Africa is 'disappointing' in fighting the variant of the virus which has been identified in South Africa - B.1.351.

Laura López González, Deputy Editor at Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism, talks to Lester Kiewit on The Midday Report about how to understand the latest information regarding the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines.

RELATED: 'Correct to put AstraZeneca on hold, but J&J Janssen Covid vaccine is hopeful'

Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?

I think it is a mixed bag so I will start with the disappointment. At face value, the AZ results are not what we had hoped for. But there are some caveats that we need to understand.

Laura López González, Deputy Editor - Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism

What we know is that the AZ did not work to prevent mild or moderate Covid-19 that was caused by the variant.

Laura López González, Deputy Editor - Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism

These are not the type of serious infections that are placing strain on the health system and mortuaries, she notes.

But what we don't know is whether this vaccine could prevent serious and deadly Covid-19 cases, which arguable, might matter more than preventing mild or moderate cases.

Laura Lopez Gonzales, Deputy Editor - Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism

It has also not yet been established what the vaccine's efficacy is on older people or those with underlying conditions she says but hopes those results will become available in the future.

However, it is important to note that efficacy aside, the vaccine is safe to use, she says.

RELATED: J&J vaccine 85% shield against Covid-19 deaths and hospitalisations - Prof Grey

I think there is good news when it comes to Johnson&Johnson.

Laura López González, Deputy Editor - Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism

López González says this is only the second vaccine that has produced any data on the Covid variant and it has only come to light in the past two weeks.

It is very fresh data and I think we are going to see more data come out. I think this is a journey we are all taking together and I think it is important that government communicates correctly and appropriately about what we do and we don't know.

Laura López González, Deputy Editor - Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism

Local and international experts are assessing the AstraZeneca data this week to advise government on what to do with the consignment.

That might mean that the jabs work better for another population as Prof Shabir Madhi hinted at last night.

Laura López González, Deputy Editor - Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism

She believes there will be more information forthcoming this week as to when frontline workers will receive the J&J vaccine.

We know the J&J vaccine works very well even against the variants we have here, and it has had zero deaths and hospitalisations in that global trial.

Laura López González, Deputy Editor - Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism

She reiterates, while AstraZeneca shows no efficacy against mild or moderate Covid-19, there is not enough data yet as to whether it will be effective against severe Covid.

We don't know what it does for severe Covid but we do know it does no harm, so do we give it to somebody in case it can help get them through this next wave, or can we afford to case them all aside?

Laura López González, Deputy Editor - Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism

Take a listen to the interview below:




8 February 2021 1:32 PM

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