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Mkhize expects phase 1 of COVID-19 vaccine rollout to begin next week

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be used in phase one when healthcare workers will be lining up for those jabs, as well as the Pfizer inoculations.

A resident of the Anni Azzurri elderly care home in Rome receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as part of the coronavirus vaccination campaign by healthcare workers of Asl Roma 1 on 8 January 2021. Picture: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize is estimating that the rollout of phase one of the country's vaccination programme will take place next week but said that he could not give more specific details.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be used in phase one when healthcare workers will be lining up for those jabs, as well as the Pfizer inoculations.

This week, government had to halt the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine - which was supposed to take place this week - after studies revealed that it offered minimal protection for mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms in patients infected with the second variant of the virus.

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

Mkhize said that many other countries had shown interest in buying the AstraZeneca stock or swapping it out with other vaccines.

"There are already some countries asking that we sell it to them. All we can say to the public is we will not waste the money. We will either swap the vaccine or get a different vaccine or get a fresh batch."

The minister said that government would be speaking to the World Health Organization (WHO) this morning to see how the AstraZeneca vaccine could still be put to good use.

"We have been in touch with the WHO and I'll be discussing with the director-general, in the next two or three hours, and COVAX. Yesterday, I was discussing with the secretary for health in the UK and everyone is looking at what can be done because in the rest of the world, this is a very highly-used vaccine."

He said that government was now in final payment discussions with Johnson & Johnson.

"If we have a price tag for orders we've put through to them, they will be explaining all the details in terms of how much of that because the amounts that will be coming through in the next week will not be a lot of vaccines but in comparison with the whole total we have ordered, so will then be negotiating."

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