Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand director Professor Shabir Madhi has warned that despite early successes with Covid-19 vaccines, further research is needed for a next generation of Covid-19 vaccines.
Second-generation vaccines are technology and design innovations that can protect against the constantly evolving variants that cause Covid-19 disease.
A South African study on the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine study has shown that the vaccine does not have at least 60% efficacy against mild-moderate Covid-19 owing to the B.1.351 (N501Y.V2) variant, first identified in South Africa.
However, the World Health Organization has recommended that the vaccine still be used in countries with the new variant as it could still protect against severe infection, hospitalisation and death.
“Despite the disappointing finding that the AstraZeneca vaccine did not protect against mild Covid infection because of the B.1.351, peer review and publication of our research validates the findings and makes a compelling case for the development of second-generation vaccines worldwide,” said Madhi.
The study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine following peer review.
Madhi said the findings of the study are a turning point in Covid vaccine development – and a rude awakening.
“This one small South African study has alerted the world to the fact that second generation Covid-19 vaccines will be required to provide protection against inevitable and persistent SARS-COV-2 variants. If we had not conducted this trial in South Africa, the world would be none the wiser,” he added.