South Africa’s health minister said on Wednesday that the country would vaccinate health workers with Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine in the form of an “implementation study” in partnership with the Medical Research Council.
The decision comes just days after the country put on hold the roll-out of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University following data in a small clinical trial that showed it did not protect against mild to moderate illness from the fast-spreading 501Y.V2 variant of the virus.
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“Given the outcome of the efficacy studies the department of health will continue with its planned phase one vaccination targeting the health workers and using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.
“The J&J vaccine has been proven to be effective ... The rollout of the vaccination will proceed in the form of an implementation study with a partnership between the Medical Research Council and the national department of health.”
Advisers would be able to give a considered view on how to deal with the AstraZeneca vaccines in the next week or so, he added.
Mkhize said the country has also secured COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer Inc and that negotiations with Moderna were ongoing.
The J&J vaccine was 89 percent effective at preventing severe disease and 57 percent against moderate-to-severe disease in the South African leg of the global trial. Ninety-five percent of infections observed in the local study were due to the 501Y.V2 variant first identified late last year.
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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.
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