The first batch of SA’s unwanted Astra Zeneca vaccine doses have been dispatched to the AU, the health ministry said on Friday.
SA sold its supply of the vaccine, totalling 1 million doses, to the AU after tests showed it offered scant protection against the 501Y.V2 variant of the coronavirus that was discovered in SA at the end of last year.
“Although it was a difficult decision for us to halt the rollout of Astra Zeneca, due to the challenges posed by the 501Y.V2 variant, it is gratifying to know that 18 member states will benefit from the AU allocation of the Astra Zeneca acquisition from SA,” said health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.
The 18 AU member states that will receive the vaccine include Nigeria, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Liberia, Egypt and Uganda.
Mkhize said the sale ensured that SA would “not incur fruitless and wasteful expenditure”.
The minister also thanked MTN Africa for helping to fund the vaccine purchase for the AU member states, saying it was “a shining example of a successful private, public partnership”.
It was unclear how much the deal was worth. Plans to vaccinate health-care workers with the Astra Zeneca vaccine were halted in February.
SA secured some 120,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine shortly after the rollout was halted. The health ministry said this week SA had secured 41 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from various manufacturers including Pfizer and J&J.