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LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: A photo illustration of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Copes pharmacy in Streatham on February 04, 2021 in London, England. A current investigation is underway to determine whether giving people a different second Covid vaccine to their first may provide extra protection, while also alleviating supply pressures. The UK has recently passed the 10 million mark in their first vaccine rollout. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

South Africa Suspends the use of AstraZeneca Vaccine

South Africa has suspended its vaccination campaign against COVID-19 after a new study revealed that the AstraZeneca vaccine is less effective against a variant of the virus found in the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) today Monday held about the latest development in South Africa. The study, conducted by the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and not yet peer reviewed, concluded that the British vaccine offered only “limited protection against moderate forms of the disease caused by the South African variant, in young adults.”

The news was a blow to South Africa, which has seen more than 46,000 people die from the virus. It had planned to begin inoculating its population with a million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming days. But the study found that the vaccine was only 22 per cent effective in moderate cases of the South African variant of the disease.

The study did not explore the vaccine’s effect against severe cases. The variant has been found in at least 32 other countries including the United States.  AstraZeneca said Sunday it was developing another vaccine that would be more effective against the South African variant, which could be expected by this autumn.

Mexican website

Millions of Mexicans were frustrated last week with the rollout of the country’s website to register people for coronavirus vaccine appointments.  The first group designated to use the site to arrange appointments were the country’s senior citizens.

One man told Britain’s Guardian newspaper that he “spent three days fighting with the website” to get a vaccination appointment for his mother.  He told the newspaper his mother “would have been unable to do it without me.”

The shaky launch of the site is disheartening for a country that has the third highest number of deaths from the coronavirus.  Mexico has more than 166,200 COVID deaths. Only Brazil and the U.S. have more, with 231,534 and 463,477 respectively, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The U.S. remains at the top of Hopkins’ list as the place with the most COVID infections. The U.S. now has more than 27 million cases, followed by India with 10.8 million and Brazil with 9.5 million.

Iran, China announce new vaccines

Over the weekend, both Iran and China unveiled new vaccines against the virus. On Sunday, Iran announced it had developed the Razi Cov Pars vaccine manufactured by the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute. Scientists will begin testing the vaccine on people this week.

On Saturday, China’s National Medical Products Administration said in a statement that regulators approved the use Friday of CoronaVac, developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

The Sinovac vaccine, which is being administered in at least five other countries, was given emergency approval last July for high-risk people, such as health care workers and employees of state-owned companies.

Conditional approval of the vaccine allows its use for the general public, while research continues. The company must submit current data and reports of any adverse effects after the vaccine is sold on the market.

More than 59 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed across the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday. More than 41 million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines had been administered by Sunday morning, with more than 31.5 million people receiving the first inoculation according to the CDC. More than 9 million people received their second dose.