Johannesburg | The coronavirus vaccination campaign planned in South Africa will be launched with the vaccine from the Johnson and Johnson laboratory, instead of that of AstraZeneca / Oxford, the effectiveness of which is currently in question, the South African minister announced on Wednesday. of Health, Zweli Mkhize.
On Sunday, the South African authorities had suspended the start of an ambitious vaccination program, which was to take place in the coming days with a million AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccines, after a study revealing in particular a “limited” efficacy against the local variant of the virus, known as 501Y.V2.
According to the initial results of this study, this vaccine is only 22% effective against moderate forms of the South African variant. No results are yet available on its effectiveness against severe forms.
“Given the results of the efficacy studies, (the government) will continue the planned first phase of vaccination using the Johnson & Johnson vaccines instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Zweli Mkhize told the press, without however specifying the date of launch of the campaign.
“The effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the 501Y.V2 variant has been proven,” he said.
Currently, South Africa, the African country hardest hit by the coronavirus, has ordered nine million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, with a first delivery, in small quantities, expected next week.
The first shipment will probably be used as “research stock”, said the minister.
South African pharmaceutical company Aspen, an approved manufacturer of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, “is very committed to ramping up production in South Africa,” Zweli Mkhize added, saying the first doses would be available in April.
South Africa is hit by a second wave of coronavirus, largely caused by a local variant known to be much more contagious than the original virus.
Since the start of the pandemic, the country has recorded nearly 1.5 million cases of contamination and more than 46,800 deaths from the coronavirus.