Based on a study of 2,000 volunteers that has yet to be released, South African health officials have invoked a fermata on the hotly anticipated rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine in their country. The issue at hand appears to be the significantly reduced efficacy of the vaccine against a mutation of the virus first identified in South Africa. The study demonstrated only “minimal protection” against mild and moderate COVID-19 from AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
Conducted by researchers at Oxford University and South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand, the study will be released after peer review. As of now, it asserts “substantially reduced” virus neutralization when compared with its efficacy against the earlier coronavirus strain. South African health officials are urging calm and patience as the country awaits the arrival of the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines. The two universities issued a joint statement:
“Protection against moderate-severe disease, hospitalization or death could not be assessed in this study as the target population were at such low risk.”
Health care and frontline workers in Johannesburg were prioritized to be vaccinated after the country recently received one million doses – but that plan has been suspended, as doubts about its usefulness in combating this strain of COVID arose. With 90% of new cases in South Africa being caused by the novel variant, South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize stated:
“We have decided to put a temporary hold on the rollout of the vaccine … more work needs to be done.”
These are not the first concerns expressed about the many experimental vaccines formulated to beat back the pandemic.
There is no evidence the COVID-19 vaccines halt or reduce transmission of the virus and thus cannot help establish herd immunity against the SARS CoV2 virus. These vaccines merely block mild symptoms of the virus. The jabs have had only two months of safety trials and no long-term ones. The phase 3 trials are ongoing as adverse drug events (ADRs) are reported to the CDC, which some believe may be under-reporting ADRs. These vaccines have not been tested on pregnant women, and some are concerned they may cause infertility.
Another concern was voiced by the associate editor of the British Medical Journal, Peter Doshi, who asserted that Pfizer’s and Moderna’s data indicate their vaccines may be only 19% effective. One more red flag waving is that this novel mRNA technology could alter the recipient’s DNA, and, according to neuroscientist Chris Shaw, the mRNA vaccines may be able to cross the blood-brain barrier. Documented adverse events of the vaccines include anaphylaxis, Bell’s palsy, transverse myelitis, and death. The CDC’s data show 501 deaths so far in America and more than 10,000 injuries.
That there is a variant of the SARS CoV2 virus in South Africa is not especially surprising – or alarming. The reason the annual seasonal influenza vaccine is so difficult to formulate is that the virus constantly mutates – just as the coronavirus is doing now. Even though there is a diminutive 0.26% mortality from COVID-19 in the United States and 0.4% throughout the rest of the world, vaccine makers like AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson know a cash cow when they see one. The variant means another chance for the pharmaceutical companies to formulate another vaccine for international use — as they plunder another revenue stream in the name of our health.
Read more from Pennel Bird.