South Africa says J&J vaccine will be given to health workers in study

The health minister of South Africa said on Wednesday that, in cooperation with the Medical Research Council, the country will vaccinate health staff with Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine in the context of a “implementation study”

The decision comes just days after the nation put on hold the roll-out of the vaccine produced by AstraZeneca and Oxford University following data in a small clinical trial that showed that the 501Y.V2 version of the virus now circulating rapidly in South Africa did not protect against mild to moderate illness.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said, “Given the outcome of the efficacy studies, the department of health will continue with its planned phase one vaccination targeting the health workers and using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine,”

“The J&J vaccine has been proven to be effective … The rollout of the vaccination will proceed in the form of an implementation study with a partnership between the Medical Research Council and the national department of health.”

In the next week or so, he said, advisers will be able to offer a considered opinion on how to deal with the AstraZeneca vaccines. An option was to sell the doses, Mkhize said.

Mkhize said the country had also secured doses of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine and that talks were underway with Moderna.

In the South African leg of the global study, the J&J vaccine was 89 percent successful in preventing serious illness and 57 percent against moderate-to-severe illness. Ninety-five percent of the infections found in the local sample were first detected late last year because of the 501Y.V2 variant.

The 501Y.V2 variant has put concerns on health professionals who have expressed concerns about its ability to potentially escape the immune response produced by prior coronavirus or vaccine exposure

Educator, writer and legal researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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