S. Africa to use J&J Covid vax after putting brakes on AstraZeneca

South Africa is now planning to use Johnson and Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine after putting brakes on the AstraZeneca vaccines against the disease as it was found less effective against a new variant in a study.

“Given the outcomes of the efficacy studies, the Department of Health will continue with the planned phase 1 vaccination using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday in a public briefing on the government’s Covid-19 vaccine roll out.

A total of 1 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses arrived in South Africa on February 1 and will expire in April, triggering fears that the cost spent on procuring these vaccines will be wasted.

Dismissing such fears, Mkhize said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines could be swapped for new ones before their expiry date.

“The government’s process of procuring vaccines preceded the discovery of the 501Y.V2 variant and other variants,” he said, while addressing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine’s lack of effectiveness against the 501Y.V2 strand of Covid-19.

“We will look at the value and what alternatives there are that we can swop Astrazenica for. There is flexibility from Covax,” he said.

He also said the government was holding talks with a number of manufacturers and vaccines from different countries were being considered.

“We are in advanced stages of evaluating and engaging the manufacturers of the Sputnik -V candidate. Engagements with Sinopharm also continue with an offer made by China currently being considered,” he said.