The Africa Health Research Institute says a move by South Africa to switch to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is right. South African health minister, Zweli Mkhize announced Wednesday, that it was suspending vaccinating its frontline health workers against the coronavirus with the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine because of its ‘’limited’’ efficacy.
“I think it’s the right decision to move to a vaccine that has been shown in South Africa to protect against the new variant that is circulating here and in this setting, protect against severe disease with 85% protection. And that’s exactly what we want. So I think it was the right decision to move to plan B”, said Director, Prof. Willem Hanekom.
A small study, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, suggested it did not help in preventing mild to moderate disease caused by the variant, first detected in the country. Experts said it might work well against more sever disease.
A study of the J & J vaccine in South Africa, showed it was 57% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 when the variant was dominant. It provides even better protection against severe disease, with 85% efficacy after 28 days.
South Africa received the first batch of 1 million doses of the vaccine from India earlier this month. It is not clear what will happen to those vaccines, although reports say the country might sell or exchange them. Currently, the Southern African nation, the hardest hit with the virus on the continent, has ordered 9 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The first batch is expected next week.