At a recent press conference held by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, the results of a Wits University and Oxford University study found that the AstraZeneca vaccine had reduced efficacy against the Covid-19 variant, 501Y.V2, found in South Africa. In trial participants, it only offered 22% protection for infections caused by the strain.
As a result, a temporary halt to the rollout of the AstraZeneca brand vaccine was announced. However, its usage in the country has not been completely ruled out.
Dr Anban Pillay, the health department’s director-general, has said that there are a number of options available in terms of the use of the vaccine that the government will be exploring.
- About R120-million was spent in the procuring of the vaccines
- The country paid between $5.25 (about R77) per dose
- Procuring the vaccine directly from AstraZeneca or the Serum Institute of India costs R44.50 ($3) per dose
- One million vaccines have already arrived in South Africa, while another 500 000 were set to arrive later this month
However, the vaccine may still be used if AstraZeneca rolls out an additional booster jab. It is believed to prevent severe cases of Covid-19, but not moderate to mild ones.
Professor Glenda Gray has said that if it can stop deaths and stop health facilities from being overrun, the vaccine should be given to high-risk patients.
The Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) said the government’s move to halt the roll-out proves what they have been saying all along.
“The efficacy of the vaccine against the new strain of Covid-19 is not proven, and the government’s rushed approach has resulted in taxpayers’ money being spent on a vaccine that is set to expire in April.
“The rushed manner in which this was carried out can only create more problems,” says YNITU President Lerato Mthunzi.