Health Minister Zweli Mkhize accompanied Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize accompanied Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

Mkhize assures AstraZeneca vaccines will not become wasteful and fruitless expenditure

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Feb 10, 2021

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Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize announced on Tuesday morning that government will proceed with phase 1 vaccination as planned with Johnson & Johnson vaccine, instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“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.

“Given the outcomes of the efficacy studies, the Department of Health will continue with the planned phase 1 vaccination using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” said Mkhize in a briefing on the latest developments around the AstraZeneca vaccine.

According to the minster, the roll out of the vaccination plan will proceed in the form of an implementation study in partnership with the Medical Research Council and the National Department of Health vaccination sites across the country.

With regards to the expiry date concerns of the received AstraZeneca vaccine batches which indicated April 30 2021, Mkhize said the vaccines have not expired.

“In addition, in keeping with the original vaccination plan, if the Department of Health were to proceed with the AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out, the doses would be used up by the expiry date.”

Mkhize said scientists will continue with further deliberations on the AstraZeneca vaccine use in South Africa, 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 Heath will ensure that the acquired AstraZeneca vaccines do not become wasteful and fruitless expenditure.

He also notes that all vaccines were developed on the basis of the original SARS-COV-2 variant that was prevalent throughout the world. The government’s process of procuring vaccines preceded the discovery of the 501Y.V2 variant and other variants.

“Before the efficacy results, South Africa could not delay receipt of the vaccine batches to await the results of the efficacy studies by our scientists as this would have relegated the country to the back of the line for vaccines due to global shortage of supplies.

“In addition, the country has also secured doses from Pfizer for phase 1 roll-out. Our scientists are continuing to evaluate other candidates and we are simultaneously engaging manufactures.

“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 currently being considered.

“A Non Disclosure Agreement has been signed and the ratification processes in SAHPRA is in progress. Similarly, our engagements with Moderna are ongoing and we will make further announcements, as we always do, when we are in a position to do so,” said the minster.

Mkhize said in the mean time, he urges the public remains to observe the continued adherence to health protocols of washing hands with soap or 70% alcohol-based sanitizer, wearing of masks in public, and to keep to the 1.5 meters social distance.

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