Johnson & Johnson
  • Enough "research stock" of J&J's Covid-19 vaccine to dose 80,000 people will reportedly arrive in South Africa by next week.
  • On Wednesday night cabinet said the J&J vaccine "will now be used instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine".
  • That came just hours after a World Health Organisation expert panel said there is "no reason not to recommend" using the AstraZeneca shots even in areas where variants – such as the South African variant – are spreading.
  • SA is still trying to figure out whether it can sell or swap AstraZeneca doses.
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The Covid-19 vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is still not approved for use in South Africa. But by next week there will be enough of the single-dose shots in the country to inoculate 80,000 people, Business Day reported, citing "independent sources".

Those doses, the paper said, would be drawn from research stock.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday announced the expected arrival of the first batch of J&J doses next week, but did not say how many.

South Africa has not yet signed final agreements for the delivery of commercial quantities of the J&J vaccine.

Yet cabinet on Wednesday night confirmed, in a formal statement after a regular meeting, that "[t]he Johnson & Johnson vaccine will now be used instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine."

That is a much firmer position than that announced by Mkhize earlier in the day. "Our scientists will continue with further deliberations on the AstraZeneca vaccine use in South Africa," he said, in a session that laid out options including combining the shot with a different vaccine, as well as the option of a full pivot away from using it at all. 

The cabinet statement came just hours after a World Health Organisation (WHO) expert panel recommended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine even in parts of the world where SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern – such as the one dominant in South Africa – are spreading.

"There is no reason not to recommend its use even in countries that have the circulation of the variants," Dr. Alejandro Cravioto, chair of the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), said during a news conference on Wednesday.

See also | WHO recommends giving AstraZeneca and Oxford University's vaccine, even where variants are spreading

South Africa, meanwhile, is trying to sell or swap the one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines already in the country, as well as the further 500,000 doses due for delivery, if they are not used – before an April expiry date.

Some countries are already lining up to buy the doses, Mkhize said.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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