JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa will give the unapproved Johnson & Johnson vaccine to its front-line health workers beginning next week as a study to see what protection it provides from COVID-19, particularly against the variant dominant there, the health minister said Wednesday.
Zweli Mkhize said South Africa has scrapped plans to use the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine because it “does not prevent mild to moderate disease” of the variant.
The one-shot J&J vaccine is still being tested internationally and has not been approved in any country.
But Mkhize, in a nationally broadcast address, declared that the vaccine is safe, relying on tests of 44,000 people done in South Africa, the United States and Latin America.
The J&J vaccine will be used to launch the first phase of South Africa’s campaign in which the country’s 1.25 million health workers will be inoculated, he said, adding that the workers will be closely monitored.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been proven effective against the 501Y.V2 variant and the necessary approval processes for use in South Africa are underway,” he said. The J&J vaccine has been in clinical tests in South Africa and is in production here, under contract from J&J.