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GABORONE, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Botswana will move ahead with plans to use AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, the southern African country's health minister said on Monday, despite neighbour South Africa pausing the rollout of the shots.
South Africa's decision to suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was based on preliminary data showing it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the dominant coronavirus variant there.
That more contagious variant - called 501Y.V2 - has been detected in Botswana too.
Asked whether Botswana would be using the AstraZeneca vaccine, Health Minister Edwin Dikoloti said in parliament: "Our intended outcome is well-covered by what AstraZeneca offers."
"Recommendations we have received from the WHO (World Health Organization) and the Africa CDC as well as our local scientists and academia is that we can go ahead and use the AstraZeneca," he added.
The Africa CDC, the African Union's disease control body, said last week it would not be "walking away" from the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Botswana is due to receive AstraZeneca doses from the COVAX Facility, a global vaccine distribution scheme co-led by the WHO.
Dikoloti said that the first doses should start arriving from COVAX in about four weeks' time and that they would be used to start vaccinating frontline workers in health and other important economic sectors.
AstraZeneca says it believes its vaccine protects against severe COVID-19 and that it has started adapting it against the 501Y.V2 variant first identified late last year. (Reporting by Brian Benza; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Emma Rumney)
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