South Africa plans to fast-track the rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine after it showed more efficacy against a new variant that’s prevalent in more than 90% of new cases in the country, according to Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council.
The move comes after trial data released Sunday showed that a shot developed by AstraZeneca Plc has limited efficacy against the mutation that was identified late last year.
Even though South Africa received its first vaccines this month with the arrival AstraZeneca’s product, its use should temporarily be suspended, Barry Schoub, chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Vaccines, said Sunday in an online briefing.
“The plan is to speak with scientists on how to deal with this going forward,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said during the same presentation.
South Africa has secured 9 million doses from Johnson & Johnson and 20 million doses from Pfizer Inc., which were expected to arrive from June and May respectively, the health ministry said last week. Vaccines for health workers from both drugmakers should now arrive within four weeks, according to Mkhize.
Africa’s most industrialized economy has also secured an additional 4.3 million vaccines from the Covax facility, which are due in March.
With almost 1.5 million confirmed cases and more than 46,000 deaths, South Africa is the hardest-hit country on the continent.