Professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Shabir Mahdi, says the government should use the doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in its vaccination programme against the coronavirus, as the jab is recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Earlier this year, the government temporarily halted the vaccine programme after it was discovered that the AstraZeneca vaccine had a reduced efficacy against the variant first discovered in South Africa.

Government then received doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and began vaccinating healthcare workers and offered AstraZeneca doses to the African Union (AU).

Mahdi, who is also head of the AstraZeneca vaccine study in South Africa, says it is very similar to the J&J jab and therefore there is no reason for the government not to use it.

He says, “It doesn’t make any sense for South Africa not to be using the vaccine. The clinical trial that was done in South Africa showed the vaccine doesn’t work against mild to moderate infection anyone with a sneeze or a cough with a positive PCR test. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine did not report on how the vaccine worked against mild infection, it reported on how well it worked against severe disease and these two vaccines are very similar in terms of the technology that’s used as well as the immune responses that are used.”

“The World Health Organisation has indicated that countries even where the variant is circulating should still use AstraZeneca to protect people from being hospitalised and from dying,” added Mahdi.

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WHO has listed two versions of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, meaning the two doses – one manufactured at India’s Serum Institute and the second produced by South Korea’s SK-Bio now have the green light to be rolled out globally through the COVAX facility.

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus says the two listings join the Pfizer drug on the approved Emergency-Use list.

Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine listed for emergency use: