JOHANNESBURG, Feb. 11 — South Africa would vaccinate medical workers with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, expected to arrive in the country next week, the health minister said on Wednesday.
“Given the outcomes of the efficacy studies, the Department of Health will continue with the planned phase-one vaccination using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Zweli Mkhize told a press briefing.
The announcement came after the AstraZeneca vaccine was shown to be less effective against the new variant identified late last year in South Africa.
“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,” the minister said.
A recent trial showed that the variant has effectively reduced the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine on mild to moderate infections.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be rolled out with an implementation study, which would be in partnership with the Medical Research Council and the National Health Department vaccination sites across the country.
“The first vaccine from Johnson & Johnson would be free as it would form part of the implementation study,” Mkhize said.
The minister said South Africa is also having discussions with drug manufacturers in China and Russia on COVID-19 vaccines.
“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,” Mkhize said.