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SA approves AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use

And is reviewing applications by rival manufacturers.
Image: Anthony Devlin/Bloomberg

South Africa has approved AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use and is reviewing applications by rival manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, the medicines regulator said on Wednesday.

South Africa will pay $5.25 per dose for 1.5 million shots of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII) and that is expected to arrive this month and February to provide protection for frontline workers.

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“In terms of the AstraZeneca vaccine … this has been granted emergency use (approval) and there will be a press conference with the minister of health on this (later),” said Helen Rees, chairwoman of the South African Health Products Authority (SAHPRA) board, during a media briefing.

At the same briefing, SAHPRA’s chief executive said the application by J&J, which became first supplier in December to apply for registration, still needed further information before a decision was taken.

“These ones in particular are at a very advanced stage of Phase III studies wherein we’ve got initial data that indicates their safety and efficacy … We are still at that point with J&J where additional information is still required,” said Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela.

South Africa has suffered a surge in infections driven by a new, more contagious variant of the virus called 501Y.V2, which drove daily new cases to 21 000 in early January, although they have now eased to below 10 000.

On Wednesday, South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) announced court action to force President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government to release details of its Covid-19 vaccination plans.

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