By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Friday announced that the first batch of South Africa’s one million AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses were successfully dispatched from the country to the African Union (AU).
In early February, government halted the rollout of the vaccine to the country’s healthcare workers after preliminary data from a clinical trial found it gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the 501Y.V2 variant discovered in South Africa.
Government then opted to administer the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine under the Sisonke trial, which has seen 269,102 health workers across the country inoculated to date.
Mkhize said the sale of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the AU’s 18 member states was made possible through the coordinated efforts of the Covid-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT).
The AVATT has secured one billion Covid-19 doses for African nations so far, Mkhize said.
"Although it was a difficult decision for us to halt the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, due to the challenges posed by the 501Y.V2 variant, it is gratifying to know that 18 member states will benefit from the AU allocation of the AstraZeneca acquisition from South Africa," the minister said in a statement.
He said through the sale of the vaccine, South Africa would not incur fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
"As government, we are pleased to see a successful conclusion of this matter. The disposal of the vaccines has ensured a win-win solution for all," Mkhize said.
The AU member states that will receive the vaccine are:
- Sierra Leone
- The Gambia
- South Sudan
The health ministry said this week SA had secured 41 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from various manufacturers including Pfizer and J&J.