Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said during a Sunday online briefing that the government is putting vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine on hold after a study was reported to have revealed that it was not highly ineffective against the South African coronavirus strain. The government is now banking on the vaccine by Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. The national spokesman for the opposition Congress of the People, Dennis Bloem, described the situation as undermining the trust in the vaccination campaign
"Government is really not assisting in instilling confidence in society in the manner in which they managed the vaccination project. Everything is in secret. We can only defeat this enemy if we are all united," Bloem told Sputnik.
His counterpart from the Inkatha Freedom Party, Mkhuleko Hlengwa, urged the deputy president to speak to the nation and explain the issue.
"This is disappointing. The country is failing to plan ... He [the deputy president] must speak to the nation and explain where they went wrong. He is also at the forefront of the campaign. What the government fails to understand is that if you delay, you run the risk of arresting this moving variant," Hlengwa told Sputnik.
Speaking to the SABC News broadcaster, the deputy director general of the department of health, Anban Pillay, said that the department will look into the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in light of the recent data and stated that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is currently the best alternative.
"We will receive the first batch later in the week. With regards to AstraZeneca, we only have potential indicators. We don’t have data that says it can or it can’t work," Pillay said.
Meanwhile, the South African Medical Association is about to release a statement on the matter, according to Chairwoman Angelique Coetzee who also told Sputnik that with these studies the government and stakeholders want to decrease hospital intake.
"Johnson and Johnson will for now help us get protection against the disease. The idea is to maximize our survival chances. As for AstraZeneca, it works well in other countries. With regards [to the Russian-made vaccine] Sputnik V we need clinical data," Coetzee added.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, South Africa has confirmed a total number of 1,476,135 COVID-19 cases, with the country’s coronavirus death toll standing at 46,290.