The Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), an independent committee overseeing the trial, has “expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data,” the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said in a statement. The vaccine developed with Oxford University was 79% effective in preventing symptomatic illness in the large trial that also took place in Chile and Peru, according to the data. It was also 100% effective against severe or critical forms of the disease and hospitalization and posed no increased risk of blood clots.
However, more than a dozen European countries halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month after reports linked it to a rare blood clotting disorder in a very small number of people. Germany and France resumed inoculations after the EU’s drug regulator said last week it was safe, but an opinion poll on Monday showed Europeans remain sceptical about its safety.
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Many African countries that have already received doses of the vaccine have begun to halt vaccination drives. In South Africa, the country’s health ministry confirmed that its reserves of one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are to leave the country as a small trial suggesting the shot offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the 501Y.V2 Covid variant dominant in the country put the brakes on the country’s mass inoculation program. Rwanda also got just under 400,000 doses however, the Rwandan government announced it would temporarily suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine; over 1.5 million doses, citing recent fears over potential side effects.
The highly unusual rebuke from federal health officials comes just one day after interim data from the drug maker showed better-than-expected results from the US trial which had been seen as a scientific counter to concerns that have dogged the shot since late last year. This new hesitancy casts fresh doubt on the global vaccination drives.