KEY POINTS

  • South Africa received one million AstraZeneca doses at the start of the month from Serum Institute of India
  • The country has secured 9 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine
  • The first batch of the J&J shots is expected this week

South Africa plans to share its stock of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines with other African countries, the government announced on Tuesday, after pausing its rollout last week. The government will also switch to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to begin its inoculation campaign. 

The country suspended the start of its COVID-19 vaccinations with the AstraZeneca shots last week after a study showed that it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from a more contagious variant first detected in South Africa

“The AstraZeneca doses we purchased have been offered to the AU [African Union] platform, of which we are part of, and the AU will distribute to those countries who have already expressed interest in acquiring the stock,” South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said

The government also debunked some Indian media reports claiming South Africa asked Serum Institute of India — which is producing AstraZeneca's shot — to take back 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses.  

The country received 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines at the start of this month and reportedly had to pay more than most European countries. The doses cost $5.25 each — nearly two and a half times the amount paid by most European countries — a senior health official told AFP last month.  

Anban Pillay, deputy director-general at the Department of Health, said the South African government would look to recover money spent on the AstraZeneca vaccine but was still finalizing how to do that.

Despite the setback with the AstraZeneca vaccine, the South African government is determined to begin its vaccination campaign this month and has secured 9 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Johnson & Johnson reported that its single-shot vaccine, developed by Janssen, was 57% effective in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 in South Africa. 

The first batch of 80,000 Johnson & Johnson shots arrived in South Africa on Tuesday. An additional 500,000 doses are expected to arrive over the next four weeks, supplemented by another 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine expected to be received at the end of March 2021, Mkhize said

The country will start inoculating health care workers with Johnson & Johnson shots in a research study in which up to 500,000 health workers are expected to be immunized, Reuters noted.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is pictured. Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Michael Ciaglo