Experts are closely monitoring South African health workers who have received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, especially those who may get the coronavirus. This comes as another 80 000 doses of the vaccine arrive in the country.
Over 63 000 healthcare workers have already been vaccinated after the first batch of vaccines arrived in the country two weeks ago.
The total number of COVID-19 infections in South Africa stands at 1 512 225, following 1 447 new cases reported by the Department of Health on Saturday.
In the last reporting period, there have been a further 157 COVID-19-related deaths in the country, bringing the national death toll to 49 941 deaths.
Recoveries now stand at 1 429 047 representing a recovery rate of 94%.
The number of vaccines that have been administered to healthcare workers now stands at 67 303.
Chairperson of the Health Products Regulatory Authority, Professor Helen Rees, says data suggests good effectiveness of the J&J vaccine against the variant of the coronavirus in South Africa.
Rees says in light of this – the delivery of the second consignment is encouraging. “In the context of our variant, it’s about 64%. Not only have we got a high level of effectiveness against severe disease, but we didn’t see deaths. So this is very encouraging. We were very concerned that the vaccines that we were looking at now were not designed for the variant that is predominant in SA. I think this is encouraging and we are also finding that there are a lot of people who have got antibodies following the 2nd wave. We’ve also got natural immunity at quite high rates in different communities. So we have got natural immunity which we will build up with vaccine immunity.”
Discussion on J&J vaccine against 501Y.V2 variant:
Prof Rees says negotiations are at an advanced stage between South African authorities and the developers of other vaccines, including the Pfizer vaccine, explaining that the new generation of vaccines could be rapidly modified to address variants of the coronavirus like that identified in South Africa.
The country has put on hold the roll-out of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, following the release of data in a small clinical trial that shows that it does not protect against mild to moderate illness from the new variant of the virus in South Africa.
Mkhize says his department will continue with its phase one vaccination plan using the Johnson and Johnson vaccine instead of the AstraZeneca one.
He says, “We do anticipate that they will have their first batch probably and I’m not their spokesperson, but just for purposes of the public it’s to say the impression I have is to say they will have their first batch manufactured around March. Now, there is a period of about a month that they have got to hold any stock that is fully manufactured.”
J&J vaccine rollout in SA with Sisonke J&J vaccine rollout programme, Professor Linda-Gail Bekker:
First vaccination milestone
The Health Department says it has reached its first vaccination milestone. In a statement, the Department says the coronavirus vaccine rollout through the Sisonke Programme is progressing faster than expected with 63 648 healthcare workers having already been vaccinated so far.
The rollout is expected to gain momentum as the second batch of Johnson and Johnson vaccines arrived at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Gauteng’s East Rand on Saturday.
The Department says the single-dose vaccine has proven to be more efficacious than previously anticipated with an efficacy rate of 64% against the new variant first discovered in South Africa.
The Health Ministry says while it is aware of the challenges faced in the rollout of the vaccine, it is working to resolve them – encouraging all healthcare workers to register for a jab through Government’s registration system. -Additional reporting by Khanyisile Manyoni