By exchanging unused vaccines before the expiry date, the Department of Health will ensure that the AstraZeneca vaccines do not become a wasteful, the health minister said. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS
By exchanging unused vaccines before the expiry date, the Department of Health will ensure that the AstraZeneca vaccines do not become a wasteful, the health minister said. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

SA awaits for more Covid-19 vaccines while failed AstraZeneca vaccine may be swapped

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Feb 11, 2021

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Cape Town - Although of little use in SA, the AstraZeneca vaccine remains a highly utilised vaccine globally, swapping it prior to its April expiration date, will ensure it was not a wasteful expenditure by the Department of Health.

This is according to Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize during a briefing on Thursday (Wed) on concerns related to the national vaccination strategy.

On Sunday evening, the Department of Health revealed that the AstraZeneca vaccine in which it had betted on, does not prevent mild to moderate disease of the second variant discovered in the country, 501Y.V2.

The results of clinical studies which had commenced in 2020 on the efficacy of vaccines, became available only on Friday, February 5, and publicly released on Sunday, said Mkhize.

“This timely finding has ensured that the measures are taken to utilise a most efficacious vaccine in our vaccination strategy.”

Mkhize said all vaccines developed were based on the original variant, and that governments procurement of vaccines preceded the discovery of the 501Y.V2 variant, now more dominant in SA.

“Before the efficacy results, SA could not delay the receipt of the vaccine batches to await the results of the efficacy studies by our scientists. If this was done, it would have relegated our country to the back of the line for vacancies due to the global shortage of supplies, but because we wanted to start early, we then took a reasonable small batch of 1.5 million of the vaccines.”

Mkhize said that the expiration of the AstraZeneca vaccines dated April 30 had been known and was not ’leaked’.

“The April expiry date was not really discovered by accident but was through the implementation of our quality assurance and control protocols. Checking the expiry dates is one of the basic administrative things that you do when you manage a medical product.”

Along with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) approval processes underway, Mkhize said: “The country has also secured the doses from Pfizer for Phase 1 rollout, so they’ll be brought forward earlier than originally planned.”

Scientists are evaluating other vaccine candidates and are in advanced stages in evaluating and engaging with manufacturers on the Russian produced, Sputnik V.

“We have correspondence and discussions in terms of what they’re suggesting needs to be done. Engagements with Sinopharm also continue with already an offer which has been made by China of some vaccines which are being considered.”

Engagements with Moderna continues and deliberations on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine by scientists are ongoing.

“And 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 that the AstraZeneca vaccines do not become a wasteful, fruitless expenditure.”

Meanwhile, the provincial Health Department said logistical planning for the provincial vaccine rollout continues.

The rollout will continue with the J&J vaccine in mid-February, however, the department awaits news on how many doses it will receive and its expected arrival date.

According to the daily Covid-19 update by Premier Alan Winde, the province recorded 7 078 active Covid-19 infections, 270 691 confirmed cases and 252 882 recoveries, as of 1pm on Wednesday.

Around 10 731 people have succumbed due to the virus.

Cape Argus

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