S/Africa to sell AstraZeneca doses to AU – Minister

South Africa has decided to sell -- not share as previously announced -- its one million AstraZeneca vaccine doses against…

South Africa has decided to sell — not share as previously announced — its one million AstraZeneca vaccine doses against the coronavirus bought from India three weeks ago to the African Union for onward distribution to other states in the continent, APA learnt on Wednesday.After dropping the AstraZeneca dosage, South Africa turned to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to vaccinate its population, starting with its health workers last week.

According to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s 85% efficacy against the mutant variant was best suited for South Africa in its efforts to contain the virus that has killed over 49,000 people since its outbreak in the country in March 2020.

Mkhize pointed out that the AstraZeneca vaccine was found to have limited efficacy against mild and moderate diseases caused by the Covid-19 variant dominant in this country.

“In regards to the sale of the AstraZeneca stock to the AU, I can confirm that we are selling the doses – and not donating them. Therefore, there is no wasteful or fruitless expenditure here,” Mkhize told an inquisitive parliament during debate. 

He said they have been informed by the AU that the vaccines would be distributed to about 20 countries in the continent, “who will be in a position to begin protecting their front-line health-care workers.”

“This is a win-win situation,” he added.

He said South Africa would prefer that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine be distributed to other countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

“We have further proposed that Johnson & Johnson be preferentially deployed to the southern regions of Africa so that we can rapidly deal with the variant that is predominating in South Africa and some parts of SADC.

“Having said that, we join the World Health Organisation and scientific community in supporting the rollout of AstraZeneca, even in regions affected by variants,” the minister said.

Pretoria surprised the world in announcing that it would not vaccinate its health workers with the Oxford-inspired AstraZeneca vaccine only a week after its arrival from India amid fanfare that saw President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mkhize and cabinet ministers leading the welcoming party for the drug at the OR Tambo International Airport on 1 February.