South Africa scraps AstraZeneca

South Africa has offered its stock of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines to the African Union, a senior health official said, as the country pivots to using shots developed by Johnson & Johnson instead.

The country paused its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after preliminary trial datashowed it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the variant of the virus that emerged in South Africa last year.

“The AU will distribute to those countries who have already expressed interest in acquiring the stock,” South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told lawmakers in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Mkhize said that rumors the shots, which were purchased from the Serum Institute of India (SII), had expired and were being returned to India were “simply not true,” and no money was wasted.

“The recent announcement around the limited efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which we had already procured, was certainly disappointing; however we were determined not to be derailed from our commitment to rollout vaccines in February,” Mkhize said.

The health minister announced that the country had instead secured 9 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Developed by Janssen, Johnson & Johnson’s Belgium-based vaccine division, the single-dose vaccine has shown to be effective in preventing serious illness and death from South Africa’s dominant coronavirus variant, known as B.1.351, with an efficacy of 57% in trials conducted in South Africa. The variant has appeared in more than 44 countries.

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