Recently, the AstraZeneca vaccination was marketed in South Africa for 1.5 million times. In addition, the WHO advised that nations continue to use the vaccination even if new strains were on the rise. Prof Shabir Madhi estimates that it might have saved the lives of up to 22,000 Covid patients, mostly the elderly.
After local data suggested that the AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid vaccination was only modestly protective against mild to moderate illness caused by the Beta strain, which dominated the country's second wave of infections, South Africa sold its 1.5 million doses in February of this year.
A group of regional scientists blasted the decision. Although the trial only included about 2000 people, the vaccination may have provided protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and death, which is the primary goal of the Covid vaccines' research.
The African Union marketed the pills to twenty different countries in Africa (AU). Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who resigned recently, told News24 that the vaccination would be more effective in these nations since the Beta strain was not yet in circulation.
It was "very fascinating" to Professor Shabir Madhi, dean and professor of Vaccinology at Witwatersrand, that this choice was taken. Madhi was in charge of the Covid AstraZeneca vaccination trial's South African component. On the 16th of September, he spoke in a virtual webinar organized by the University of Cape Town.
'Highly doubtful,' says the expert. According to him, "[South Africa] sold it to the African Union, and the African Union subsequently disseminated the same vaccine to other African nations where the Beta version was also spreading.".
"Clearly, the morality of the South African government selling out a vaccine to other African nations where the Beta variation was also circulating–but wasn't discovered because they don't have the capacity to sequence –is extremely problematic," Madhi continued.
Including Madhi, six of SA's top medical scientists penned an editorial for the magazine in March 2021. sending AstraZeneca vaccines abroad poses serious ethical questions. The [Beta] variation has been found all throughout Africa and may be to blame for the recent disastrous second wave in several nations.
"Why was the AstraZeneca vaccine sold to the African Union if the South African authorities really felt it didn't work?" they questioned in their letter. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) disagreed, recommending that the two-dose vaccination be administered in nations where new strains of the virus were found to be circulating.
Why was this suggestion issued by the WHO When it comes to severe Covid infection, the vaccination appears to be effective in animal models, according to Madhi.
According to Madhi, evidence from Canada also showed that the AstraZeneca vaccine offered 80% protection against hospitalisation and mortality due to the Beta and Gamma (originally discovered in Brazil) variations even after a single dosage.
Both of these variants have comparable mutation and antibody activity susceptibility features. As a result, we marketed a vaccine that the WHO suggested South Africa use, and we ended up with a scenario where the vaccination really accomplishes what the WHO claimed it would do, [which is] to protect against hospitalization and mortality.
We also saw an increase in the Delta form that the vaccination is similarly effective against, even after just one dose, with protection against hospitalization and mortality reaching80%, according to Madhi. Public confidence has eroded. "There are repercussions to this," Madhi said of the sale, citing the uncertainty it caused among the public and the resulting decrease in their faith in the vaccination.
If the vaccination is reintroduced in South Africa, it may be difficult to persuade individuals to obtain the vaccine. Some African nations' populations refused to utilize the dosages after they were sold to the AU, causing the pills to expire.
As a result, the decision had both immediate and long-term ramifications. More than 180 nations, including the UK, have received the AstraZeneca vaccination. Thousands of lives may have been saved. According to Madhi's study, thousands of lives may have been saved in South Africa if the 1.5 million vaccine doses had been utilized at the time of their arrival.
To put it another way, we may have saved the lives of 18 000 to 22 000 seniors who would otherwise have died as a result of Covid. Those are persons who, if vaccinated, might have lived longer and died less tragically. In January2021, Madhi stated that South Africa's vaccination plan mistakes would likely lead to one to two more resurgences of cases before a significant part of the population was immunized.
A catastrophic third wave of cases then hit South Africa, and experts are now predicting a fourth wave before the end of the year. Sobering, according to Madhi's assessment. "We must realize the implications of our actions and bad decision-making in the country, especially when we go against the advise of WHO specialists," he added.
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