SA turns to J&J vaccine to begin COVID-19 immunisation programme

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is effective against the South African variant of the virus.

In this file photo taken on 17 November 2020 an illustration picture shows vials with COVID-19 vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. Picture: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP.

CAPE TOWN - South Africa has shifted gears and is now hinging its hopes on the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

During a World Health Organization (WHO) briefing on Monday, the chairperson of government’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, said that they were scheduled to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccine in just over a week from now.

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

A small efficacy trial, with 2,026 participants, found that this vaccine offered very little protection against mild to moderate COVID-19 caused by the virus' second variant.

Explained: AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine efficacy and expiry dates

Karim anticipates that the start of the country's immunisation plan will only be pushed back a few days.

He said that the first inoculations would now be done with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which delivered vastly better efficacy results against the virus' second variant.

READ: Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is effective against the South African variant of the virus.

"Instead of rolling out the AstraZeneca vaccine, we'll be rolling out the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and that will give us a bit of time and leeway to ensure that we're collecting the necessary data as we roll out the AstraZeneca in a stepwise process."

Karim explained that the AstraZeneca rollout plan entailed inoculating 100,000 people, who'd be monitored.

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

"It doesn't really, materially affect our start date, it may affect the rate at which we escalate, if we start running short of doses, but as it stands it should not affect much else."

The average age of study participants in the AstraZeneca vaccine trial was 31 years.

Researchers said that protection against moderate to severe disease, hospitalisation or death could not be assessed as the target population was at low risk.

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

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