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AstraZeneca vaccine ineffective if South Africa variant not curbed in Philippines —expert

An expert warned on Wednesday that AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine offered little protection against the coronavirus variant that was first detected in South Africa.

Molecular biologist and OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco said that the Philippines should eliminate the B.1.351 variant since it is a potential stumbling block on the road towards achieving herd immunity.

He said South Africa recently halted the rollout of the vaccine because a study showed that it significantly reduced the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca shots.

"It’s no different [from] injecting water into the patients. With 10% protection, basically, most people would still be able to get mild and moderate COVID-19," Austriaco told a virtual press briefing.

“If we do not eliminate the B.1.351 variant in the Philippines, which was first identified yesterday in Pasay, the 17 million doses of AstraZeneca that we have already bought but have not yet arrived will be ineffective against fighting this particular variant from South Africa,” he added.

The Philippines is expected to receive an initial 487,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday with frontline health workers as priority recipients.

“If it is not controlled, if it is not eliminated from the islands, [it will be] more difficult for us to vaccinate the 75 million Filipinos in order to acquire herd immunity,” Austriaco said. 

He also said a person who received the two-dose vaccine should get a booster shot.

"We would need three doses of the remaining vaccines because you would need one booster shot just for the B.1.351 variant," he said.

The Philippines has so far recorded six cases of the South Africa variant.—LDF, GMA News