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COVID-19 Vaccine | South Africa to dispose 2 million J&J doses over contamination fears

Burden of bridging the vaccine gap will now fall on the country’s largest pharma company Aspen Pharmacare Holdings, which will begin producing the vaccines by mid-week at its factory in Gqebherha (earlier known as Port Elizabeth), on contract from J&J.

June 14, 2021 / 09:06 AM IST
The development will likely be devastating to South Africa’s vaccination plans, as the country is fully reliant on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for its immunisation programme and as it faces its third wave of coronavirus cases

The development will likely be devastating to South Africa’s vaccination plans, as the country is fully reliant on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for its immunisation programme and as it faces its third wave of coronavirus cases


South Africa will dispose of 2 million of the doses as the United States has ruled that ingredients may have been contaminated during the production in a Baltimore plant. This was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The development will likely be devastating to South Africa’s vaccination plans, as the country is fully reliant on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for its immunisation programme and as it faces its third wave of coronavirus cases, Bloomberg noted.

The burden of bridging the vaccine gap will now fall on the country’s largest pharma company Aspen Pharmacare Holdings, which will begin producing the vaccines by mid-week at its factory in Gqebherha (earlier known as Port Elizabeth), on contract from J&J, the report said.

South Africa had ordered around 31 million doses of the single-shot vaccine to inoculate at least two-thirds of its 60 million strong population.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The country had earlier in April also suspended its roll-out of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine over potential blood clot risks reported by the United States. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize had then announced: "We have determined to voluntarily suspend our rollout until the causal relationship between the development of clots and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is sufficiently interrogated."

South Africa in February, scrapped plans for administering the Oxford University-AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccines in the country after it was found that the dose was "not as effective" against the 'Beta' variant first identified within its borders.

Mkhize has said AstraZeneca “does not prevent mild to moderate disease” of the variant and said they would only use J&J's vaccine. This despite the fact that the one-shot J&J vaccine is still being tested internationally and was then still not approved in any country.

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