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Sell or swap? — South Africa weighs options for AstraZeneca vaccine

Sell or swap? — South Africa weighs options for AstraZeneca vaccine
February 10
17:39 2021

The South African government says it plans to sell or swap the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses — after a study revealed that it is ineffective against the new variant of the virus discovered in the country.

Zweli Mkhize, the country’s health minister, in a press briefing on Wednesday, said the country plans to continue its scheduled phase one distribution using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Mkhize noted that officials are currently deciding the fate of more than one million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which are said to be due for expiration at the end of April.

“There are already some countries that are asking that we must sell it to them,” Mkhize said.

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“Our scientists will continue with further deliberations on the AstraZeneca vaccine used in South Africa, and depending on their advice, the vaccine will be swapped before the expiry date.

“Given the outcomes of the efficacy studies, the government will continue with the planned phase one vaccination using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

He noted that scientists will deliberate on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in South Africa, as the country also plans to administer the doses to a group of 100,000 older nurses and healthcare workers to check if it is effective against severe illness in the older age category.

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The health minister disclosed that the country has ordered nine million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but a small shipment is expected to arrive next week, which he said would be used for research purposes.

“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been proven effective against the 501Y.V2 variant,” he said.

South Africa had suspended the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after a study by researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and the UK’s Oxford University, found that it offered minimal protection against the South African variant of coronavirus dubbed 501Y.V2.

As of the time of filing this report, according to Worldometer, South Africa has reported 1,479,253 cases of COVID-19, with 46,869 deaths, while 1,367,247 patients have recovered from the virus.

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