Covid-19: Phase 1 of vaccine rollout plan will continue with Johnson & Johnson - Mkhize

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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
PHOTO: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images
  • South Africa's Covid-19 vaccination plan will now take place with vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson.
  • Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced the change after the AstraZeneca vaccine was found to be less effective against the 501Y.V2 Covid-19 variant.
  • The vaccination plan could commence as soon as next week, Mhkize has said, although a date has yet to be announced.

South Africa's stock of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will be swapped out, and phase 1 of the country's vaccination plan will commence with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Government has temporarily delayed the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in South Africa after trial data showed it was less effective against the dominant Covid-19 501Y.V2 variant in the country.

At a media briefing on Sunday evening, following the release of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine trial data earlier in the day, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the vaccine will not be rolled out until it gets clear approval from scientists.

During a briefing on Wednesday morning, Mkhize announced that government's rollout plan will resume once it had received vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson.

He estimated this could be as soon as next week but said the date will be announced by Cabinet.

South Africa received its first million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at the beginning of the month. The vaccination programme – the first phase of which will target healthcare workers – was set to start this week.

Mkhize added that the procurement of the vaccines had began before the research has concluded, as the government could not afford to delay securing doses.

“Before the efficacy results, South Africa could not delay receipt of the vaccine batches to await the results of the efficacy studies by our scientists, as this would have relegated the country to the back of the line for vaccines due to global shortage of supplies,” he said.

The government has confirmed it has secured nine million doses from Johnson & Johnson. Along with the Johnson & Johnson and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines, South Africa has secured 12 million vaccine doses from Covax and 20 million from Pfizer.

Mkhize added that the government is in advanced stages of discussion with the manufacturers of the Sputnik vaccine, and that engagements with Sinopharm in China are also underway, with the government having entered into a non-disclosure agreement around the discussions.

Mkhize added the vaccine was not likely to expire before it could be used. He said the expiration date is 30 April – something the Department of Health was aware of – and that in the original vaccination plan they would have been used long before this date.

He added the vaccines would not go to waste or expire. The current stock of the vaccine will either be sold, swapped for another kind of vaccine, or used for research purposes, and South African is currently in talks with the World Health Organisation and Covax around these options, Mkhize said.

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