Cape Town – The Western Cape has been patiently waiting for weeks to scale up its Covid-19 vaccine rollout once the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccines were available, but the recent ditching of vaccine batches changed those plans.
About 300 000 does of the J&J vaccine will be released and shipped to South Africa, after the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded its investigation into the Emergent BioSolutions facility in Baltimore, US, and found millions of J&J doses were contaminated.
In an interview with the SABC News, Acting Health Minister Mamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said that about 2 million of the J&J doses at the Gqeberha site would be discarded.
“Based on what has been announced by the FDA, we are affected in terms of those batches there at the Gqeberha site and what we have there on site is 2 million.
“I think some people were almost thinking these were the batches that would have vaccinated South African citizens and these batches were contaminated.
“I need to reiterate that is not correct. These batches have not been used. So I think South Africans citizens should not panic and what we will receive and use will be approved.”
During his media briefing at the G7 summit, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Aspen Pharmaceuticals would beef up its production capacity to start work on new batches.
In an interview with CapeTalk, chief of operations at the Western Cape Department of Health Dr Saadiq Kariem spoke about the recent development and said it would have a definite impact on the rollout.
“What we’ve had to do from a service perspective is obviously slow down the pace of the rollout.
“We were hoping that the J&J vaccine would have almost quadrupled the supply of vaccinations in the country, and therefore the province. We’ve been gradually adding sites online every week (and) we currently have about 208 sites online and we were going to add several more this week.
“What we have had to do from an operations perspective now is slow down the pace at which we are vaccinating people, just to make sure the sites don’t run completely dry in terms of vaccination numbers,” Kariem said.
When discussing the fact that many of those vaccinated so far are shortly expected to return for their second Pfizer dose, Kariem said they were hoping to get more Pfizer vaccines to “push hard” for the administering of the second dose.
Residents who received their first Pfizer vaccination would have a 42-day waiting period for their second vaccination.
“At the moment we are trying to get through those who are booked and scheduled for their first dose. There is quite a lot of science about the interval of the dose, and the interval (between doses) has been increased,” he said.
“People who might have initially had an appointment after three weeks have been extended to six weeks and even more. There are some countries where people have had their second jab even after the 42 days.”
Dr Kariem also goes on to address the impact of walk-ins in the interview. Listen to the full interview below: