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AstraZeneca begins vaccine trials against South Africa's COVID strain

In February, South Africa delayed vaccination with AstraZeneca. As scientists reported, it was much less effective against the South African strain COVID-19, the predominant strain in the country

Oxford University and AstraZeneca have begun clinical trials of a vaccine developed against the South African variant of the coronavirus, Le Figaro newspaper reported.

About 2,250 people from Britain, South Africa, Brazil, and Poland will participate in the trials. The new vaccine is also based on an adenovirus vector. Preliminary trial data on the drug are expected later this year.

“Testing booster doses of existing vaccines and vaccines against new variants is important to ensure that we are as well prepared as possible to stay one step ahead of a coronavirus pandemic if their use proves necessary,” said Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group's vaccine research group.

Authorities in South Africa announced the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus in late December. It was this mutation that the country linked to the second wave of the pandemic: more young patients without comorbidities were being admitted to hospitals in critical condition because of COVID-19, South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

The strain is also about 50 percent more infectious than previous mutations, penetrating human cells more easily and sticking more firmly in them, South African scientists believe. Also, the new variant can be dangerous with the risk of reinfection, and vaccines already developed may prove ineffective against it, warned scientists at the Johannesburg National Laboratory Health Service.

Amid the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus, South Africa has abandoned the AstraZeneca vaccine. This came after scientists from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, and Oxford reported poor efficacy of the drug against the South African variant. AstraZeneca has sold the batch of vaccines that have already arrived in other countries.

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