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Scientists study mass vaccination in Austrian district hit hard by South African COVID variant

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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz during a press conference at the federal chancellery in Vienna, Austria, Friday, March 5, 2021.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz during a press conference at the federal chancellery in Vienna, Austria, Friday, March 5, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Ronald Zak
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An Austrian district heavily impacted by the spread of the COVID-19 South African variant has been allocated an extra 100,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines from Brussels to quickly inoculate the entire adult population.

A commission of domestic and international scientists will monitor the vaccination campaign to study its impact on the spread of the variant, also known as B.1.351.

People whose primary residence is in the Swaz district, in the Austrian lander of Tyrol, have until Monday to register for the jabs. The mass vaccination campaign is scheduled to start on March 11.

Around 20,000 of the district's 84,000 inhabitants have already been vaccinated, according to the state's government. The extra Pfizer/BioNTech doses will allow for 50,000 more to be protected from the deadly virus.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz explained to reporters on Wednesday that Tyrol is "one of the biggest outbreaks of the South African variant in Europe."

The variant from South Africa is thought to be more worrisome because it is potentially more resistant to the vaccines currently being administered.

Measures imposed in the state, including the need to show a negative PCR test to travel to and from other areas in Austria, have slowed the spread of the virus.

Tyrol has a seven-day incidence rate of 114.4 cases per 100,000 population, the second-lowest of any of Austria's eight landers and well below the national average of 172.7 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Schwaz currently has the highest number of active cases of any district in Tyrol at 245. It also accounts for 66 of the 88 currently active confirmed cases of the more transmissible variant in the province, the Austria Press Agency reported.