SA groups vaccines in order of preference: J&J, Pfizer, Moderna in first category
More data needed on Russian and Chinese vaccines, while AstraZeneca and Novavax 'may not be suitable'
Government advisers have organised Covid-19 vaccines into three groups, with the Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Pfizer and Moderna shots being considered for “immediate use”, says health minister Zweli Mkhize.
SA started rolling out the J&J vaccine last week in a research study targeting health-care workers and hopes to receive Pfizer doses in the coming months.
It has paused AstraZeneca vaccinations after a small trial showed the British company’s shot offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the dominant local coronavirus variant.
On Tuesday Mkhize said the government has placed “huge orders to J&J and Pfizer, which will be finalised in the next few days and announced when concluded”, adding that discussions with Moderna are ongoing.
Mkhize said the ministerial advisory committee on vaccines had placed Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and alternatives from China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac in a second group, in which SA is interested but requires more technical information.
Non-disclosure agreements had been signed with manufacturers of vaccines in the second group and negotiations were advanced, he said.
“They have offered several millions vaccines subject to the finalisation of the outstanding information and price negotiation.”
A third group of vaccines, which “may not be suitable for immediate use in SA”, includes the AstraZeneca and Novavax products.
SA has recorded almost half of the Covid-19 deaths and more than a third of confirmed infections in Africa, and has lagged behind wealthier nations in its immunisation drive.
The government plans to vaccinate 40 million people, or two-thirds of the population.
Mkhize said the next batch of 80,000 J&J doses for the research study would arrive on Saturday.
The health and finance ministries had agreed on a mechanism that would compensate any citizen who might suffer an adverse effect from the J&J or Pfizer vaccines, he said.
Mkhize said SA would sell, not donate, its stock of AstraZeneca shots to the African Union.