JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African scientists will meet on Thursday to discuss a laboratory study that suggests the dominant local coronavirus variant may reduce antibody protection from the Pfizer vaccine by two-thirds, the health ministry said.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine late on Wednesday, includes additional data to one released in a pre-print review published in late January.
South Africa plans to start rolling out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the coming months, after on Wednesday launching its vaccination programme with Johnson & Johnson’s shot in a research study targeting healthcare workers.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday that the country was expecting 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine initially and about 7 million doses by June.
“I do know that our scientists will be meeting to discuss it (the Pfizer study) and they will advise the minister,” health ministry spokesman Popo Maja told Reuters. “We are not going to be releasing a statement until advised by our scientists. We will also be guided by the regulator SAHPRA.”
“The Pfizer application is currently under review and SAHPRA cannot comment at this stage,” said spokesman Yuven Gounden, when asked whether the regulator would take the latest study into consideration when assessing Pfizer’s application.
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