First 80,000 J&J vaccines due to touch down in SA on Tuesday

The rollout, due to take place from Wednesday, would be coordinated through the Sisonke open-label COVID-19 vaccine programme.

FILE: Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - The much awaited first batch of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccines is expected to arrive at OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday.

Experts from the South African Medical Research Council collaborated with the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson to make the jabs available to healthcare workers registered on government’s electronic vaccination data system.

The rollout, due to take place from Wednesday, would be coordinated through the Sisonke open-label COVID-19 vaccine programme.

READ: COVID-19 vaccine rollout expected to begin on Wednesday - SA Medical Association

The first 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will be dispatched to 17 sites across the country as part of an implementation study starting on Wednesday. Because the vaccine has been studied in South Africa, The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority approved an extension of the study that will allow healthcare workers to be vaccinated before the vaccine is officially licenced. As those first doses are part of the study, the South African tax payer won’t be footing the bill. However, the nine million doses of that vaccine secured by government will be paid for by the fiscus.

Professor Linda-Gail Bekker is part of the local team leading research into the vaccine.

As she explained, this study allowed them to roll the vaccine out while waiting for authorisation for its commercial use from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority.

“The programme is a way for us to access a product that we know is safe but is not yet licenced in the country whilst we wait for that licensing process to happen.”

Bekker said more vaccines were expected to arrive in the country in the coming weeks.

“[We'll get] 300,000 over the next month and a further 200,000 if we get those out.”

The first inoculations are expected to be administered from Wednesday.

The jab showed 57% efficacy against moderate to severe COVID-19 caused by the 501Y.V2 variant in the research sample of 43,783 people. In the same research sample, there was 100% protection against death. Of those trialled, 6,576 people were from South Africa.

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

Last week, South Africa halted the rollout of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine after a small local study found that the vaccine provided minimal protection against mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients infected with the second variant of the virus. Efficacy in moderate to severe cases was not as yet measured.

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