The AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not effective against mild to moderate infections in SA, could be sold or swapped with other countries
Durban – Selling South Africa’s newly acquired AstraZeneca vaccine to other countries which do not have the coronavirus variant dominant in South Africa was being considered by the government.
This is according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize when he spoke at a briefing on Wednesday about issues related to the vaccination rollout strategy.
His comment came after the announcement on Sunday that the one million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India were not effective against mild to moderate infections caused by the new variant.
Mkhize said government would ensure there was no wasteful expenditure, adding he was surprised to receive emails from other countries requesting to purchase SA’s batch of the vaccine. He said government would consider selling the vaccine as an option.
“First our scientists must tell us what we do with it. Can we use it before it expires and if not, can we swap it with anyone else?”
He said following discussions with the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) initiative, swapping the vaccine was a possibility.
Mkhize explained the expiry date of the vaccine was not discovered by accident, but was part of the basic administrative processes when managing medical products.
“The April expiry date was not discovered by accident, but through the implementation of our quality assurance and control protocols. This timely finding has ensured that all measures are taken to utilise the most efficacious vaccine in our vaccination strategy.”
However, if the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout were to continue as planned, the April expiry date would not have been a factor because the vaccine would have been used long before the expiry date, he said.
“Before the efficacy results, South Africa could not delay receipt of the vaccine batches to await the results of the efficacy studies by our scientists, as this would have relegated the country to the back of the line for vaccines due to global shortage of supplies.”
The Minister confirmed the Department of Health would continue with the planned phase 1 vaccination using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been proven to be effective against the SA variant and the necessary approval processes for use in SA were under way.
“The rollout of vaccination will proceed in the form of an implementation study with the partnership of the Medical Research Council and the National Department of Health vaccination sites across the country.”
SA has also secured doses from Pfizer for the phase 1 rollout, while at the same time evaluating other vaccine candidates and engaging manufacturers.
“We are in advanced stages of evaluating and engaging the manufacturers of the Sputnik -V candidate. Engagements with Sinopharm also continue with an offer made by China currently being considered.”
He said engagements with Moderna were ongoing.