AstraZeneca will have adapted its vaccine to combat the South African variant of Covid by the end of the year, the company's boss of Austrian operations has said.
Sarah Walters made the remark while being quizzed by an Austrian news site over recent studies which suggested the jab could be as little as 10 per cent effective at preventing mild or moderate Covid infections caused by the strain.
While dismissing current medical studies as 'too small to draw final conclusions' from, she added that AstraZeneca's current jab is already being modified to work better against the variant.
AstraZeneca is adapting its current Covid jab to be more effective against the South Africa variant and it will be ready by the end of the year, the firm's Austria boss has said
'We expect it will be ready by the end of the year, should it be needed,' Walters told Austrian news site Kurier.
During the same interview, Walters was also quizzed about supply issues that have affected AstraZeneca in Europe - sparking an almighty row with the EU amid accusations of vaccine nationalism in favour of Britain.
Sarah Walters said it is still too early to tell whether the South African variant makes the jab less effective, but it is be adapted anywa
Walters said the supply issues were down to the fact that AstraZeneca began supplying the vaccine as soon as it was ready, meaning there was no stockpile of the drug to draw from if factories under-produced.
She also pointed to the 'complex' process of manufacturing vaccines coupled with extremely high demand as a reason for the shortfall.
'Covid-19 is a very emotional issue,' she said. 'It affects each of us in some way.
'But we developed a vaccine, built a global supply chain, and received approvals in over 70 countries in less than 10 months. With a project of this size, it's not surprising that there are unforseen challenges.'
'We are confident that we will fulfill our commitment to deliver 300 million doses to the European Union this year,' she added.
The Kurier interview did not directly address ongoing investigations into health concerns over the AstraZeneca shot.
The EU has put a warning label on the vaccine over its possible linkage to extremely rare blood clots.
A study in South Africa found AstraZeneca's jab was just 10 per cent effective against mild to moderate forms of Covid, but Walters said the sample was too small to draw conclusions
Denmark has completely halted use of the vaccine and Britain will allow people under the age of 30 to get another brand of vaccine, if one is available.
Asked about 'thousands' of people in Austria who are cancelling their appointments for AstraZeneca shots, Walters said the company's plan was 'to continue to transparently provide information about efficacy and safety to doctors, so that they can adequately inform people' of benefits and risks.
British and European Union medicine regulators have said that the overall benefits of using the vaccine outweigh any risks.