Department of Health
The health minister, Zweli Mkhize, has announced that local scientists will continue with deliberations on the AstraZeneca vaccine use in South Africa.
In a statement, the minister confirmed that, based on the advice of the scientists, the “vaccine will be swapped before the expiry date”.
The vaccine is due to expire on 30 April 2021.
“By exchanging unused vaccines before the expiry date, the Department of Heath will ensure that the acquired AstraZeneca vaccines do not become wasteful and fruitless expenditure”, he said.
Studies had established that the Astra Zeneca vaccine does not prevent mild to moderate disease of the 501Y.V2 variant.
According to the minister, “this timely finding has ensured that all measures are taken to utilize the most efficacious vaccine in our vaccination strategy”.
The minister confirmed that all vaccines were “developed on the basis of the original SARS-COV-2 variant that was prevalent throughout the world”.
He added that, prior to the release of the efficacy results, South Africa could not delay receipt of the vaccine batches as “this would have relegated the country to the back of the line for vaccines due to global shortage of supplies”.
The minister declared that the health department will now use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the planned phase 1 vaccination.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been proven effective against the 501Y.V2 variant and the necessary approval processes for use in South Africa are underway”, he said.
Pfizer vaccine doses have also been secured for the phase 1 roll-out.