Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says experts are assessing how the AstraZeneca vaccine doses already in the country will be used effectively in the future. This comes after the government placed a temporary halt in the rollout of the shot.

Studies have indicated that the vaccine has 22% efficacy in preventing mild to moderate cases of the 501Y.V2 variant in South Africa.

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

Speaking during a media briefing on Sunday night, Mkhize said scientists are figuring out what approach to use to effectively deploy the AstraZeneca vaccines.

“We have to get our team, I have directed our scientists to quickly sit together and figure out what approach we are going to use to effectively deploy the AstraZeneca vaccines and come back to us and say, these are the proposals on the AstraZeneca.”

“This is a temporary issue that we have to hold onto AstraZeneca. It is temporary until we figure out the next step. When we know those steps then we will bring it back,” explained the Minister.

Minister Zweli Mkhize gives an important update on COVID-19 vaccines:

 

Why AstraZeneca vaccine put on hold

Co-chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, Professor Salim Abdool-Karim, has detailed reasons behind the temporary halt in the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Karim says the move is due to uncertainty over how effective current vaccines would be against the stronger coronavirus variant.

“We know that they work well against the pre-existing variants … [but] what about the new variant? We need more antibodies in order to be able to kill the variant. AstraZeneca and Novavax trials in SA have shown that the clinical efficacy is diminished substantially.”

“But we don’t really know the answer on severe disease. So we need that information on hospitalisation and we can’t make decisions without that. So, the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout needs to be put on temporary hold,” explains Karim.

The government is now considering other vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in the coming weeks.

Considering other vaccines

While authorities look further into how the AstraZeneca vaccines can be used, the government is now considering other vaccines – developed by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer – in the coming weeks.

The Johnson & Johnson Ad26 Janssen shows some positive results with the local variant.  President of the SA Medical Research Council, Professor Glenda Gray explains: