WORLD – AstraZeneca (AZ) is set to recruit approximately 2250 participants for their phase 2 and 3 trials of the newly modified AZD2816 set to work against the new COVID-19 variant.

This trial phase will have individuals who previously got AZ’s authorized COVID-19 vaccine Vaxzevria or an mRNA vaccine, at least three months after their last dose get the trial dose.

It will also have individuals who have not been vaccinated involved in the program and receive a two-dose regimen spaced within four to twelve weeks apart.

The AZD2816 vaccine has been designed using AZ’s adenoviral vector platform Vaxzevria, although it also has minor genetic alterations to the spike protein based on the beta, or B.1.351/South African, variant.

The newly modified vaccine comes at a time when South Africa is facing a resurgence of the delta variant with local infections spreading at a fast rate.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been forced to reimpose restrictions for two weeks to combat a surge in the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant.

He banned all gatherings, except for funerals where numbers will be capped at 50, and also ordered a ban on the sale of alcohol.

Eateries and restaurants can no longer serve sit-down meals, and will only be allowed to sell food for take-away or delivery.

Authorities say the peak of the third wave, fueled by the Delta variant first identified in India, will surpass that of earlier waves as the country struggles to quickly roll out vaccinations.

South Africa has reported 1,928,897 cases after recording 15,036 cases on Sunday, a drop from the previous day when 18,762 new infections were diagnosed.

The country has recorded 59,900 coronavirus deaths with 1.71 million recovered cases.

South Africa has currently issued out 2,661,378 doses of vaccines but only a total of 479,771 have been fully vaccinated against the disease.

This is still far much behind in terms if the South African vaccine roll-out program that was launched earlier this year that would have over 40 million south Africans vaccinated.

The roll-out was designed for a three-phase approach that would begin having 67% of the most vulnerable individuals within the population vaccinated so as to achieve herd immunity.

Its first phase will target 1.25 million healthcare workers while the second phase will target a total of 2.5 million essential workers, 1.1 million individuals in a congregate setting, 5 million individuals above the age of 60 years and 8 million people over the age of 18 as the third phase will see 22.5 million persons above the age of 18 get vaccinated.

AZ is hopeful to have its newly modified vaccine rolled out in South Africa as they expect initial data from the trial later this year which will be submitted to regulators for assessment as a next gen booster vaccine.