South Africa scraps plans of using Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine procured from India

South Africa scrapped plans of using Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for its inoculation campaign and instead use the Johnson & Johnson jabs, health minister said.

The country, worst-hit by the pandemic in Africa, has suspended its vaccine roll-out that was due to begin with Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after a study found that the jab failed to prevent mild and moderate illness caused by a variant discovered in South Africa dubbed 501Y.V2.

The vaccination delay has set back an ambitious plan to inoculate about 40 million people, by the end of 2021.

“Given the outcomes of the efficacy studies [the government] will continue with the planned phase one vaccination using the Johnson & Johnson vaccines instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told a press briefing on Wednesday.

“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been proven effective against the 501Y.V2 variant.”

Officials are yet to announce dates for the immunisation campaign.

Officials are also deciding on the fate of more than one million Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines already secured from the Serum Institute of India (SII) and set to expire at the end of April

The government could be looking to sell or swap the doses with countries tackling the original coronavirus strain.

Johnson & Johnson Jabs:

The J&J vaccine was 89 percent effective at preventing severe disease and 57 percent effective against moderate to severe disease in the South African leg of a global trial.

Ninety-five percent of infections observed in the local study were due to the 501Y.V2 variant first identified late last year.

The 501Y.V2 variant has alarmed health experts who have raised concerns about its ability to potentially evade the immune response generated by prior exposure to the coronavirus or vaccines.