Boxes of needles being delivered when Western Cape Health MEC, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, visited the Cape Medical Depot to assess its state of readiness in storing and distributing vaccines. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Boxes of needles being delivered when Western Cape Health MEC, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, visited the Cape Medical Depot to assess its state of readiness in storing and distributing vaccines. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Western Cape forges ahead with logistics despite temporary pause on vaccine roll-out

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Feb 9, 2021

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Cape Town - As disappointment sets in after the announcement by government that the lack of efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has led to a pause in the roll-out of inoculations, the Western Cape said it was waiting for scientists as to the way forward.

The National Department of Health, with the country’s top medical heads leading clinical Covid-19 vaccine trials, held a media briefing providing the latest update regarding Covid-19 vaccines.

It was announced that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out would be placed on temporary hold, following clinical data showing the vaccine’s lack of efficacy against the 501Y.V2 variant, first discovered in the country.

Premier Alan Winde said, “Like the rest of South Africa, we are devastated at the news that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out has been suspended because of the latest study on its efficacy with respect to the 501Y.V2 strain.”

Winde said the province would wait for the advice from the scientists.

“The Western Cape government will continue to forge ahead with our logistical planning for the phase 1 vaccine roll-out in the meantime. We need to make sure we are 100% ready, whatever the decision taken on this vaccine.”

The province had hoped to have started vaccinating health-care workers on February 15. Around 35 000 health-care workers in the public sector, 58 000 in the private and 30 000 community health-care workers - inclusive of care workers, health students and traditional health workers - had been earmarked for vaccination.

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said, “What we know of the AstraZeneca vaccine outside of South Africa is that it is still utilised in the UK for young people - they don't give it to people who are at a higher risk. They have their own variant. What we know is that the programme is going to be (run by) Johnson & Johnson.”

Principal investigator for Johnson & Johnson clinical trial and South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) president Professor Glenda Gray said the Johnson & Johnson single dose Jannsen vaccine showed a higher efficacy. “The vaccine efficacy increased with the severity of the Covid-19 disease.”

Professor Salim Abdool Karim said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out needed to be put on temporary hold.

“Our scientists must quickly sit together and figure out what approach we are going to use in order to effectively employ the Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccines,” said Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Over the next few weeks, Pfizer, Oxoford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be available, with Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson available for health-care workers, said Dr Mkhize.

“We are also still in negotiation with a number of other vaccines. There are discussions on Sputnik, Sinopharm and Moderna, and we will also need to explore on Novavax because there has not been much discussion (about that).”

Last week,1 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the country from the Serum Institute of India, and a further 500 0000 is expected later this month.

Cape Argus

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