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SA to donate 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to rest of Africa

South Africa plans to share the 1-million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine it procured from the Serum Institute of India (SII) with the AU, a senior health official said on Tuesday.

Last week, the South African government suspended its planned rollout of the AstraZeneca shot, after a small clinical trial showed it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the 501Y.V2 variant that now dominates transmission in the country.

It had procured 1.5-million doses from the SII in India, the first 1-million of which arrived on February 1.

Health department deputy director-general Anban Pillay said the 1-million doses already received would be shared with other African nations via the AU at no cost to the fiscus.

“We plan to recover our costs,” he said. South Africa paid $5.25 per dose for the vaccines.

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A plan has yet to be devised for the remaining 500,000 doses ordered from the SII, said Pillay.

The government has switched to Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which it plans to administer in a phase 3b study with the Medical Research Council to get around it not yet being commercially available.

Plans to begin the national vaccination strategy rollout with J&J’s shot on Wednesday are on track, said Pillay.

The government aims to immunise 40-million people against the coronavirus, starting with 1.5-million health workers.

On Monday, the World Health Organization granted emergency use authorisation to AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine.

Its experts have recommended the vaccine be used for people over 18, including in countries that have detected coronavirus variants.

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