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17 Feb, 2021 11:05

S. Africa to administer globally unapproved J&J Covid-19 shot in healthcare workers trial, looks to offload AstraZeneca jab

S. Africa to administer globally unapproved J&J Covid-19 shot in healthcare workers trial, looks to offload AstraZeneca jab

South Africa is set to kick off a trial of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 jab, administering the vaccine to healthcare workers after a small study showed AstraZeneca’s jab to be ineffective against the country’s dominant variant.

The first doses of Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine are set to be given on Wednesday at Khayelitsha District Hospital in Cape Town, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde announced. 

The shots of the single-dose vaccine, which has not been approved for widespread use anywhere in the world, will be initially used as part of a trial in which no placebos are given. 

During clinical trials, the jab was shown to have a positive safety profile; it also proved to be 72 percent effective against mild disease, 85 percent against severe disease and, most importantly, no one was hospitalized or died 28 days after getting the vaccine. 

Interestingly, the Johnson & Johnson jab uses similar technology to the AstraZeneca vaccine and has shown 57 percent efficacy when tested in South Africa. 

On Wednesday morning, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the first batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, numbering 80,000, had touched down in the country and that it had been approved for use. He said he had great confidence in the vaccine and would join healthcare workers in taking the jab.

“To demonstrate our confidence in this vaccine and help allay any fears that people may have, the Minister of Health and I will join the first health care workers to receive the vaccine in Khayelitsha,” the president tweeted. 

Over the next four weeks, the country expects to receive a further 500,000 doses for its inoculation campaign. So far, more than 380,000 healthcare workers have registered to receive the jab. 

“As more doses arrive the service will be ramped up accordingly to ensure that we maintain a good rate of daily vaccines,” said Mkhize.

Also on rt.com South Africa to share 1 million AstraZeneca Covid vaccine doses with continent as study says jab ineffective against local variant

Pretoria elected to turn its back on the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier in February after a small study claimed that the vaccine was ineffective against the dominant strain of Covid-19 in the country. 

While none of the 2,000 study participants were hospitalized with severe symptoms or died, 39 eventually caught the virus – 19 from the vaccine group and 20 from the placebo group. AstraZeneca has questioned the thoroughness of the study. 

South Africa has paused its rollout of the AstraZeneca jab and on Tuesday announced it would attempt to recoup some of its costs by “sharing” the jab with other countries in Africa.

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