Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize says a batch of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is expected to arrive in South Africa next week.

Government has placed a temporary halt in the roll-out of the AstraZeneca doses after studies indicated that the vaccine has 22% efficacy in preventing mild to moderate cases of the 501yV2 variant in South Africa.

The Health Department was preparing to roll out the AstraZeneca jab to healthcare workers, after receiving one million doses by the Serum Institute of India last Monday.

Mkhize says, “So vaccination will continue as would have been done. What we are doing on top of it is implementation studies. That means we know it is safe, it has good efficacy.”

Mkhize gave an update on COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday:

Vaccination programme to go ahead

Mkhize, however, says the government wants to ensure that the vaccination programme goes ahead in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“We would, for the public, still assure that the vaccination programme still continues and we have reached out to other companies so that we can bring forward the availability of J&J and Pfizer vaccinations, which we have ordered.”

AstraZeneca’s expiry date

Director General at the Department of Health, Dr Anban Pillay, says the department has discovered that the vaccine acquired from India is expiring in April.

“The expiry date on the vaccines are ordinarily 6 months expiry date. Unfortunately, these vaccines came with an expiry date in April which we only identified on arrival.”

 Dr Anban Pillay explains why AstraZeneca not so effective against SA variant:

Presenting study results from the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, Medical Research Council President, Prof Glenda Gray, says it was up to 57 percent effective against the variant detected in South Africa.

She says Johnson and Johnson has already applied for emergency use of the vaccine in different parts of the world. Prof Gray confirmed that they will announce a plan soon to expedite the use of this vaccine to health care workers in South Africa.

“How the vaccine efficacy would say what happened in SA and was consistent across all countries and all regions and including the cases in SA were viewed in new variant. This is based on our sampling of available data…”

Professor Glenda Gray says the Johnson & Johnson vaccine shows some positive results with the local variant:

Biovac ready to store, distribute any vaccine

The bio-pharmaceutical company, Biovac, says it is prepared to store and distribute any vaccine that the Health Department is planning to roll out.

Biovac Institute CEO, Dr Morena Makhoana, says they have stepped up security where COVID-19 vaccines are stored before distribution.

“If the Department of Health is planning to continue with the current stock or the J&J, I don’t think it makes any difference as to where we deliver and how we prepare. We are prepared and we are waiting for the release of the product. If there is a switch to another product, all of those plans will kick in.”