South Africa to return 1m Covid vaccine doses to Indian drug maker

Clinical trial showed shot offered minimal protection against new coronavirus variant


Reuters February 16, 2021
A woman walks past a painting of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a day before the inauguration of the COVID-19 vaccination drive on a street in Mumbai, India, January 15, 2021. REUTERS

INDIA/ BENGALURU:

South Africa wants to return the one million Covid-19 vaccine doses it has received from Serum Institute of India, The Economic Times reported on Tuesday, a week after the country said it would put on hold use of AstraZeneca’s shot in its vaccination programme.

Serum Institute of India, which is producing AstraZeneca’s shot, has emerged as a key vaccine supplier. One million doses of the vaccine landed in South Africa last week and another 500,000 were due to arrive in the next few weeks.

The company said it had no comments on the matter.

South Africa’s health minister has said the government may sell doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, after the country paused its rollout following a small clinical trial that showed the shot offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from the 501Y.V2 coronavirus variant dominant in the country.

The African country, which is yet to launch its Covid-19 vaccination program, has decided to start vaccinating health workers with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in the form of an “implementation study” with researchers.

The Economic Times report also comes as the World Health Organisation on Monday listed the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use.

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