It would be reckless for SA to discard AstraZeneca vaccines - Mahdi

The rollout of that particular vaccine has been put on ice for the time being after early data showed that the AstraZeneca inoculation gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the dominant variant.

FILE: Vaccines arriving from India are loaded onto a truck at OR Tambo International Airport on 1 February 2021 before being taken to a secure location for quality assurance checks. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN - Wits University professor, Shabir Madhi, said that it would be reckless for South Africa to discard the AstraZeneca jabs.

The rollout of that particular vaccine has been put on ice for the time being.

Early data shows the AstraZeneca inoculation gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the dominant variant.

READ: SA halts rollout of AstraZeneca vaccine over efficacy against second variant

Some provinces were preparing to start vaccinating their healthcare workers this week but the programme has been stalled.

Madhi said that scientists needed more time to interrogate the data.

READ MORE: J&J vaccine effective against COVID-19 variant - Glenda Gray

"I think it would be highly reckless for us to discard the vaccine. We paid a high price for it and so the vaccines do have a role in protecting from severe disease. I think an important feature in all the vaccines is that generally, vaccines work much better in preventing severe disease."

And time could be limited, it was only recently discovered that that the first one million jabs currently in the country hold an expiry date of April 2021. The reason for this date is because we only have study data for six months. As data becomes available for longer periods, the expiry dates can be extended by manufacturers, according to public health specialist Kerrin Begg.

This is not an unusual way to roll out vaccines either. Health journalist Laura Lopez Gonzalez explained on Twitter: "Similar programmes in South Africa have been used for drugs to treat extensively-drug resistant TB, balancing the need for patients to have access with the need for more data."

Madhi said that there were other options to put the vaccine to good use.

"If we're strategic in terms of the rollout, we might still be able to get the vaccine used, not two doses per individual but at least a single dose and we could possibly follow it up then with another vaccine and a few vaccines that might come online in the next two or three months."

WATCH: SA's AstraZeneca vaccine rollout on hold; J&J vaccine effective against variant

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