A South African vaccinologist, Shabir Mahdi, has urged the South African government to use the suspended AstraZeneca vaccine in its vaccination programme against the coronavirus, APA learnt on Sunday.Mahdi, a professor of Vaccinology at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, said the government should use the Oxford University-inspired vaccine which the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended, and has been distributing to African countries through WHO’s COVAX facility.
The expert, who also headed the AstraZeneca vaccine study in South Africa, said the rejected vaccine is very similar to the J&J jab in preventing hospitalisation and deaths, and therefore there was no reason for the government stop using it.
“It doesn’t make any sense for South Africa not to be using the AstraZeneca vaccine. These two vaccines are very similar in terms of the technology that’s used as well as the immune responses that are used,” the expert said.
He added: “The World Health Organisation has indicated that countries where the variant is circulating should still use AstraZeneca to protect people from being hospitalised and from dying.”WHO has listed two versions of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, meaning the two doses – one manufactured at India’s Serum Institute and the second produced by South Korea’s SK-Bio — have its approval to be rolled out globally through its COVAX facility.
Pretoria suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine days after it received one million doses from India, saying the jab had less efficacy against the country’s mutant variant which has been rampant during the second wave of the pandemic.
The government also said it would sell the unwanted drug to the African Union for onward distribution to other African countries.
After stopping the use of AstraZeneca vaccine, the government chose the United States-made Johnson & Johnson vaccine for its efficacy against the variant.
Meanwhile, the WHO and the African Union have urged multinational drug manufacturers of the Covid-19 vaccines to waive intellectual property rights on the coronavirus medicines and vaccines to speed up their manufacturing by other drug makers in order to rollout to poor countries.
The manufacturers have yet to respond to this request.