SA rollout of the J&J COVID vaccine will be expedited - Prof Bekker

South Africa has secured 9 million doses of the J&J vaccine with the first consignment of 80,000 vials expected to arrive in the country next week.

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 – The rollout of pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine for health workers will be expedited.

In the run-up to the country's mass vaccination drive, the Sisonke open-label COVID-19 vaccine programme was established to help speed up the plan, while an application for commercial use of the shot is being finalised.

South Africa has secured 9 million doses of the J&J vaccine, with the first consignment of 80,000 vials expected to arrive in the country next week.

Professor Linda-Gail Bekker has been part of the study that was rolled out in South Africa last year.

She explains there's usually a waiting period from the time results of a vaccine's clinical trial was known until it's licensed for commercial use.

To bridge this delay, Bekker explained they had drawn up a plan to rollout the vaccine while waiting for the authorisation process to be finalised.

“Can we together bring this expedited plan forward so that we can make sure we, as quickly as possible, rollout phase one recipients – mainly healthcare workers – into a kind of emergency programme.”

She said 32 sites across the country will be utilised.

“This is not clinical research in the clinical trial concept; it really is programme evaluation, and many eyes are on it at the moment to make sure that we have covered all aspects – ethical, safety and scientific. We will not move without those approvals."

Trial data shows the single-dose jab has an 85% efficacy against severe COVID-19 and offers 57% protection against the virus' second variant.

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