Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, says government has offered the African Union the AstraZeneca vaccine doses that South Africa procured from the Serum Institute in India.
This comes amid reports that South Africa had asked the Serum Institute to take back the one million doses that arrived earlier this month after a study found that the vaccines had limited efficacy against mild to moderate patients infected with the second variant of COVID-19.
“We would also like to categorically refute the speculation in media that we have returned the stock to India - we have not.
“The Astra Zeneca doses we purchased have been offered to the African Union platform, of which we are part of, and the AU will distribute to those countries who have already expressed interest in acquiring the stock,” he said.
The Minister used the debate on the State of the Nation Address on Tuesday to rebut reports that the vaccines had expired.
“I also wish to once again put it on record that the vaccines have not expired and that the expiry date of April 31 was established through our quality control processes. A wrong impression was created that the vaccines have expired [and] this is simply not true,” he said.
Mkhize said there will be no wasteful and fruitless expenditure.
“In regard to the future role of AstraZeneca - and all vaccines for that matter- we continue to be guided by the Ministerial Advisory Committee and experts and remain committed to an approach that is led by science and is rational in its implementation.”
Mkhize said, as announced by the President, government has managed to successfully secure nine million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with vaccinations due to begin this week.
In a statement late last night, government announced that the first delivery of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be landing at OR Tambo International.
An additional 500 000 doses are expected to arrive over the next four weeks, supplemented by another 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that is expected to be received at the end of March 2021.
“I can also say that we have actually secured enough doses to vaccinate all the people who will need to be vaccinated in South Africa.
“I would like to take the opportunity to settle the matter of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout because it must be understood that our sole purpose is to save lives and protect our healthcare workers.”
Mkhize said it is without dispute that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has a 57% efficacy against the 501Y.V2 variant and is fully protective against serious illness or death.
“On this basis, Johnson & Johnson is applying for Emergency Use Authorisation and it is expected that it will be granted.
“With this evidence in hand, we will begin by vaccinating our health care workers with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.” – SAnews.gov.za