The Department of Health says the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines that are awaiting release from the Gqeberha plant in the Eastern Cape need to be further assessed by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).
However, it conceded that there is a real possibility that the doses may not be suitable for use in South Africa.
Explainer on the FDA’s decision to order J&J to discard its vaccines
The department’s announcement followed a statement by the American regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that it had cleared two batches of the J&J vaccines after contamination at a manufacturing plant in the United States. The announcement led to a worldwide pause in the distribution of the J&J vaccine.
However, millions of doses that were contaminated had to be destroyed. The FDA’s hold on the release of the vaccines has a significant impact on the health department’s vaccine rollout programme.
More than 1.1 million South Africans older than 60 years have now received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine after another 85 245 were vaccinated on Friday. Almost 480 000 healthcare workers received the J&J vaccine under the Sisonke programme that ended last month.