SA's Covid-19 phase 1 vaccine rollout to start next week with J&J shots

10 February 2021 - 09:57 By Iavan Pijoos
SA will start its immunisation campaign with Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine some time next week. File photo.
SA will start its immunisation campaign with Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine some time next week. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said the nationwide phase 1 vaccine rollout is expected to start some time next week, with the exact date to be announced by the cabinet.

Mkhize said he would love to be among the first people to take the vaccine, adding that several political and government leaders have also put their hands up to take the first jabs to put the rest of the country at ease that the vaccines are safe.

Given the outcomes of the efficacy studies, the department will continue with the planned phase 1 vaccination using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine instead of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Mkhize said the department was finalising payments with Johnson & Johnson.

Minister of health Zweli Mkhize hosted a public briefing on February 10 2021 to address the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine's lack of effectiveness against the 501Y.V2 strand of Covid-19. The minister also gave a revised plan of the country's vaccine rollout.

“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been proven effective against the 501Y.V2 variant and the necessary approval processes for use in South Africa are under way.”

SA may sell AstraZeneca doses 

On Sunday, Mkhize said it was only when the first million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine arrived at OR Tambo International Airport that health authorities discovered the shots were expiring well ahead of what had been planned.

“It did shock everyone that the AstraZeneca vaccine did not have the desired effect in South Africa.”

He said several countries have showed interest in buying the AstraZeneca stock.

Mkhize said scientists will continue to deliberate about the use of the vaccine in the country.

“Depending on their advice, the vaccine will be swapped before the expiry date. By exchanging unused vaccines before the expiry date, the department of health will ensure the acquired AstraZeneca vaccines do not become wasteful and fruitless expenditure.”

New sources of vaccines on cards

Mkhize said the country had also secured doses from Pfizer.

“Our scientists are continuing to evaluate other candidates and we are simultaneously engaging manufacturers.

“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 being considered.”

National department will ramp up liaison with provinces

He said he was informed by the portfolio committee that the provinces were “very anxious” about the rollout plan.

“I have to accept now that there is a degree of anxiety among the provinces and we need to interact with them more closely.

“We will do everything to support the provinces so that they are able to reach out to the numbers we want them to achieve.”

TimesLIVE

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW | SA's Covid-19 phase 1 vaccine rollout to start next week with J&J shots

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