Education sector wait for 300k J&J vaccine doses
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TEACHER unions and workers will hear this week how the government plans to distribute the 300 000 Johnson and Johnson vaccines allocated for the education sector.
This comes in the wake of a decision by the USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which declared two batches of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine safe for emergency use following an investigation into the contamination of millions of doses at a plant in Baltimore.
South Africa is to take delivery of the 300 000 vaccines as primary schools are said to return to normal operations as of July 26, when schools reopen for the third term.
According to the Washington Post, at least 60 million doses will now have to be discarded after they were found to be contaminated by the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The same fate could befall the vaccines awaiting distribution from the Aspen plant in Gqeberha as the South African Health Product Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) must determine if they are suitable for use.
In a statement Friday night, the Department of Health said the FDA had also approved an extension of the expiry date to 4.5 months instead of three, which will mean the doses will not expire on June 28 as first reported, giving the government an added month and a half to utilise them.
“Acting Minister (Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane) will make a formal announcement in the next coming few days on how the department will inoculate educators and other groups falling within phase two of the vaccination programme,” said the department’s spokesperson Foster Mohale.
South African Democratic Teachers Union’s Mugwena Maluleke said they welcomed the news which would bring relief to the sector.
Several schools across the country, particularly in Gauteng and Mpumalanga, have had to close this week as infections among learners and educators soared.
“After all the meetings we had with the government in an effort to ensure teachers are vaccinated, this is welcome news that ensures teachers will be protected,” he said.
“Data from our system has been sent to the Electric Vaccination Data System (EVDS) system to assist with the number of workers we have in the sector which will go towards setting up vaccination centres across the provinces. Most provinces have indicated that schools would be the most convenient places to act as vaccination sites.
“We will continue to work to educate our educators on the benefits of getting vaccinated as we know there might be some hesitancy but this is a step in the right direction.”
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said more plans were needed to boost the country’s vaccine supply.
“It’s not good news for us on the FDA ruling on the contamination of the 60-odd million doses that are to be destroyed,” he said.
“I understand that the implication for us is not good as Sahpra must now check our own doses but if they share any of the components it’s not going to help with our own backlog. We are now millions of doses behind in South Africa.
“I do welcome the 300 000 emergency supply and want to know what plans are in place to make more available to catch up. We have built the databases of education and should announce once we have clarity on how many vaccines (we will get) and when.”