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South Africa to receive 1m COVID vaccines in Jan. Will it work against new variant?

An Israeli man receives a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a drive in vaccination center in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.   -  
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AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

South Africa

South Africa will receive one million vaccines in January from the Serum Institute of India, the country's health ministry said on Thursday.

An additional 500,000 doses will be delivered in February.

The health ministry said it was working with the regulator, South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), to ensure the roll-out of the Astra Zeneca vaccine is not delayed.

Minister of Health Dr Zwelini Mkhize said the government was handling negotiations and payments.

The country is also battling a new variant of the virus, which is believed to be driving the surge in infections.

Scientists had told the Financial Times newspaper that the new variant could make some vaccines less effective.

“At this moment, we think that a vaccine could be a little less effective,” Professor Tulio de Oliveira, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who is leading South Africa’s scientific effort to understand the 501Y.V2 strain, told the Financial Times. “[But] between all the varieties of vaccines that are coming to the market, we still have strong belief that some of them will be very effective.”

On Wednesday, South Africa reported its highest single-day deaths and new cases.

Mkhize announced that 844 deaths and 21,832 new cases were recorded, with the most casualties in the Eastern Cape province.

South Africa is the country hardest-hit by coronavirus on the continent and has reported over one million cases with more than 31,000 deaths since the outbreak in March.

The country imposed stricter measures in December such as a ban on alcohol sales, mandatory mask-wearing and the closures of some beaches.

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