Vials labeled “COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine” and sryinge appear in front of the displayed Johnson & Johnson logo in this illustration dated February 9, 2021. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration / File Photo
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – The South African government’s agreement with Johnson & Johnson for 11 million COVID-19 vaccine doses provides an option for an additional 20 million doses, subject to inventory availability, the health minister said.
“The agreement was signed for 11 million cans with an option for an additional 20 million cans depending on inventory availability,” Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a written response to a legislator question Reuters saw on Friday.
The country launched its vaccination campaign last month with J & J’s single-dose vaccine after AstraZeneca discontinued plans to administer the double-dose vaccine.
A small study showed that the AstraZeneca shot offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from the dominant local coronavirus variant.
The J&J shot will be passed on to up to 500,000 healthcare workers in a research study for further evaluation on site before a major rollout is expected in the second quarter. Local pharmaceutical company Aspen will manufacture J&J cans under license.
Mkhize added in his written reply that the J&J vaccine was inexpensive, stored at refrigerator temperature and was a single-dose vaccine, among other things for reasons of effectiveness against the 501Y.V2 variant first identified in South Africa late last year.
Reporting from Wendell Roelf; Letter from Alexander Winning; Adaptation by Catherine Evans