South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been hit by further delays as it will have to discard at least 2 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines produced in the country.
The vaccines were found by the U.S Food and Drug Administration to be unsuitable for use due to possible contamination of their ingredients at a Baltimore plant. South Africa was expecting to use them to inoculate its health care workers and people aged 60 years and older.
This is the latest setback to South Africa’s vaccine rollout which has so far given shots to just over 1% of its 60 million people.
Early this year the country rejected about 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine it received from the Serum Institute of India after a small, preliminary study found that the vaccine offered minimal protection against mild to moderate cases of the COVID-19 variant that is dominant in South Africa. Those vaccines were sold to the African Union for distribution to other African countries.
To date, the country has given jabs to more than 1.7 million people, including nearly 480,000 health workers who were inoculated as part of a study trial of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
South Africa has been the hardest hit by COVID-19 on the continent, with more than 1.7 million confirmed cases, representing nearly 40% of the more than 5 million cases reported by Africa’s 54 countries.
The country is currently experiencing a new resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic with an increased number of recorded infections. Its 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has more than doubled over the past two weeks from 5.69 new cases per 100,000 people on May 30 to 12.17 new cases per 100,000 people on June 13.