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Test safety, efficacy of vaccines: CDC

FIDELITY MHLANGA

THE Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has advised African Union member states to strengthen clinical trials research capacity to generate data on the safety and efficacy of vaccines in African populations.

It said countries should expand genomic surveillance testing capacity, or liaise with the Africa CDC/WHO continental, Covid-19 genome sequencing laboratory network.

The Africa CDC Pathogen Genomics Initiative aims to enhance disease surveillance.

The organisation told countries that have recorded the South African coronavirus new variant not to use the AstraZeneca vaccine.

This comes after the South African government on Sunday announced a temporary hold on rolling out the University of Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India.

The suspension followed reports that the vaccine offered “minimal protection” against mild and moderate cases of Covid-19 infections. This was based on a study conducted by a team at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

A placebo-controlled phase I/II trial was conducted by South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand in collaboration with Oxford University. The study recruited 2 000 relatively healthy and young volunteers with a median age of 31 years and with few comorbidities.

The aim of the trial was to assess the safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the prevention of Covid-19 caused by the predominantly circulating new SARS-CoV-2 variant N501Y.V2 or B.1.35.

“For countries that have not reported the circulation of the SAR-CoV-2, we recommend proceeding with the rollout of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. For countries that have reported the circulation of the variant, we recommend the acceleration of their preparedness to introduce all Covid-19 vaccines that have received emergency use authorisation of approval by regulatory authorities,” the Africa CDC said.

On Tuesday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration said it was still undecided on a particular vaccine to buy although it had mobilised a US$100 million war chest to fight the pandemic.

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister Monica Mutsvangwa told a post-cabinet media briefing that the executive would take its time to choose the vaccine to import. As of February 10, 2021 Zimbabwe had recorded over 34 864 cases, over 1 345 deaths and 29 471 recoveries.

There are plans to vaccinate 10 million people and the government has already accepted a donation of 200 000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines from China. The vaccine is expected in Zimbabwe next week.

The government has said the vaccination roll out programme will prioritise health workers, the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

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