"But right now all of it is going to the African continent and they will be distributed in about 20 countries that will use them for their health workers."
Mkhize said another option was to exchange AstraZeneca for other vaccines, through the AU platform. "We are extremely excited with that because we are now in a position to support the rest of the continent. For me it is a win-win, it's good for all of us. We might need to swap them, but we will not lose money."
But some scientists have urged SA to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Professor Shabir Madhi, the SAMRC's vaccine and infectious diseases analytics unit director, said SA should not sell off its AstraZeneca supplies.
"The results reported from the AstraZeneca study on the South African Covid-19 variant have been completely misread and misinterpreted," Madhi said. "It's the same with the Pfizer vaccine. The results cannot be used in any way to determine whether the vaccine cannot be used to protect against severe disease or not."
He said AstraZeneca was still very likely to protect against severe disease, "which is why WHO [the World Health Organisation] recommended the vaccine be used in countries where new variants are circulating. It does not make sense not to offer the vaccine to high-risk groups when it's available, unless one can guarantee another vaccine will become available in the next few weeks which targets high-risk individuals. At the moment there is no such guarantee."