South Africa suspends AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccination plans

SA shifts attention to J&J vaccine after learning the million jabs received might be worthless after all.

The shocking announcement follows data showing the vaccine, for which a million doses were received from Serum Institute of India a few days ago is less effective against the SA variant of the coronavirus than initially thought. Following receipt of the batch, the country had planned to start its vaccination programme this month, with healthcare workers having been earmarked to be first in line to receive the jabs. However, those plans seem to have been dealt a major blow following the emergence of new data. While disappointing, the shift now turns to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which has shown to be more effective against the local variant.

In his address on Sunday, the health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize indicated the government will now shift towards providing Pfizer and J&J vaccines in the coming weeks, while a panel of scientists explores how to proceed with the AstraZeneca vaccine. During the address, Wits Professor Shabir Madhi also told the briefing that while trial results showed the vaccine was less effective against mild and moderate forms of the local variant, the question of whether the vaccine would be effective against severe forms of the virus was not answered by the study. While not all doom and gloom since SA has other options on the horizon, it does throw a spanner in the works.