Many South Africans have reacted with shock and disappointment at news that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will not be as effective as experts had hoped against the local Covid-19 variant.

The country has put on hold its roll-out of the one million doses it received. Vaccination was due to begin next week.

While there are now more questions than ready answers, the message from health officials is that all is not lost.

They believe the vaccine may still be effective in prevent severe illness and go some way in reducing the number of people who need to be admitted to hospital for treatment.

This is important in a country where some 80% of the population cannot afford private health care and relies on state hospitals, which are currently overstretched, for healthcare.

So what’s the plan now? Well, South Africa’s health minister has said they will take a steer from local scientists on how to repurpose the vaccine to get the most out of it.

There is some suggestion that the vaccine may be useful if given to the older population and to people with co-morbidities.

In terms of managing people’s concerns, the government and scientists may need to go the extra mile in reassuring citizens now that there is still a plan in place – and lives can and will be saved.