Health workers to be vaccinated next week with Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Image: GCIS

The first group of health workers will be vaccinated next week using the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Pfizer vaccine while the government waits for a scientific and expert advice on the use of Oxford/AstraZeneca.  

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday morning that his department was also looking at the possibility of swapping or selling the one million doses of AstraZeneca to other countries before it expires in April.

The drug arrived in SA last week, but it was later discovered that it was not too effective in fighting the second dominating variant, 501.V2 which emerged in SA around November.

AstraZeneca has been discovered to be more effective against the first variant. It is also safe to administer on healthy individuals.

“We are not intending to claim back the money that was used to buy AstraZeneca from India. There are countries who want us to sell it (AstraZeneca) to them because it is still a useful drug. We either going to swap or sell, but it will depend on the advice that we will get from experts. They [scientists] can also advise us if we can still use it within the expiry date. I can guarantee South Africans that there won’t be any money wasted,” said Mkhize.

The minister also added that they were ongoing talks with the manufacturers of other various drugs from countries like China, Russia and the producers of Moderna vaccine.

Without giving a specific date, Mkhize said the rollout of J&J vaccine will start next weekend and the participants will also be regularly observed for any medical complications.  

The first phase will be followed by mass distribution which will be determined by the available vaccine at the time as the AstraZeneca was meant to be distributed on a larger scale.

Mkhize said medical aid users will not pay for the vaccines as it will be 100% covered by all medical aids and non-medical aid users will be vaccinated for free. The vaccination process will be centralised and managed by the state.

“This is all about the government making sure that we are all safe. We also want to avoid a situation where people start selling vaccines on street corners,” said Mkhize.

Minister of health Zweli Mkhize hosted a public briefing on February 10 2021 to address the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine's lack of effectiveness against the 501Y.V2 strand of Covid-19. The minister also gave a revised plan of the country's vaccine rollout.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW | SA's Covid-19 phase 1 vaccine rollout to start next week with J&J shots

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