The South Africa coronavirus variant should not prevent Filipinos from receiving AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines, Malacañang said on Thursday.

Molecular biologist and Octa Research Team fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco on Wednesday said the South African variant could halt the country’s vaccination drive after research data showed that AstraZeneca vaccines were only 10-percent effective against it.

“It’s no different than injecting water into the patients. With 10-percent protection, basically, most people would still be able to get mild and moderate Covid-19,” Austriaco said.

“If we do not eliminate the [South African] variant in the Philippines… the 17 million doses of AstraZeneca that we have already bought but have not yet arrived will be ineffective against fighting this particular variant from South Africa,” he added.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque downplayed the threat of the South African variant and said it should not cause vaccine hesitancy and hinder the country from achieving herd immunity.

“Sa akin po, unang-una: hindi naman po malawak ang presensya ng South African Covid dito sa ating bayan so far, so I don’t think it is something that should be a basis para mag-atubili na naman sa AstraZeneca,” he said in a Palace briefing.

“If no less than the World Health Organization has also given an emergency use authorization to AstraZeneca, then it must be safe and that is must be effective,” he added.

Several local government units have secured deals to provide residents with AstraZeneca vaccines. John Ezekiel J. Hirro