South African COVID-19 vaccines compared on price, efficacy, and delivery date

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 1 February that South Africa has received its first consignment of one million doses of the Covishield vaccine from India.

This vaccine was developed by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and South Africa was one of the countries where clinical trials were held to assess the drug’s efficacy.

While the arrival of 1 million vaccine doses is a positive start, it is a long way from protecting all South Africans against COVID-19.

Ramaphosa said local scientists estimate South Africa will reach herd immunity once around 67% of citizens are immune, which amounts to 40 million people.

This means South Africa needs tens of millions of additional vaccine doses to reach the government’s target of vaccinating a minimum of two-thirds of the population by the end of this year.

To address this issue, Ramaphosa said they are sourcing vaccines from a number of suppliers, which include:

  • In addition to the 1 million Covishield doses, another 500,000 doses from the Serum Institute of India are expected to arrive later in February.
  • South Africa has secured 12 million doses from the global Covax facility, which has indicated that it will release approximately 2 million doses by March.
  • The country has also secured 9 million vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson, commencing with delivery in the second quarter. Aspen will manufacture these vaccines in South Africa.
  • Pfizer has committed 20 million vaccine doses commencing with deliveries in the second quarter.

South Africa will also receive an allocation of vaccines through the African Union, which has secured 1 billion vaccines for the continent.

Ramaphosa added that the country will also receive “other vaccines that will be donated by private sector companies to add to the vaccines that our continent needs”.

Vaccines South Africa is expecting

From Ramaphosa’s recent comments and a recent report by News24, South Africa’s focus is on four vaccines – AstraZeneca (Covishield), Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna.

There are many other vaccines on the market, including Novavax, Sputnik V, and Sinovac, but they have not received the same attention by the South African government as the top 4.

This raises the question of how efficient these vaccines are against protecting against COVID-19, whether they will protect against the new 501Y.V2 variant, and when we will get them.

News24 reported that only around 33 million vaccine doses are expected before the end of the year – enough to vaccinate 20 million people.

Citing a Cabinet presentation, News24 reported South Africa is facing a shortfall of 40 million doses to reach its 2021 vaccination target.

It further reported the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are expected to arrive in May and a Johnson & Johnson shipment in June.

The efficacy of the vaccines differs significantly based on different trials conducted around the world, but it is widely accepted that the mRNA vaccines – Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – provides the best protection.

Most COVID-19 vaccines provide some protection against new virus variants, like 501Y.V2 which is widespread in South Africa, but conclusive efficacy results are not available for all vaccines yet.

The table below provides an overview of the latest information regarding the vaccines which South Africa are expected to get in 2021.

Covid-19 vaccines for South Africa
Measure AstraZeneca Pfizer-BioNTech Johnson & Johnson Moderna
Type Adenovirus-based mRNA Adenovirus-based mRNA
Price $5 $10 $10 $30
Date February 2021 May 2021 June 2021 Uncertain
Efficacy 63% – 90% 95% 72% 95%
501Y.V2 protection Yes* Yes* Yes* Yes*
Doses required 2 2 1 2
Vaccination days apart 28 21 28
Long-term storage 2°C to 8°C -60°C to -80°C 2°C to 8°C -20°C
Short-term storage 2°C to 8°C 2°C to 8°C 2°C to 8°C 2°C to 8°C
*Efficacy against new variants may be less

Now read: South Africa gets surprise batch of 20 million COVID-19 vaccines

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South African COVID-19 vaccines compared on price, efficacy, and delivery date