South Africa reports delivery of 1.1 million Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccination has been delayed pending further safety checks, the final blow to the stop-start vaccination program.
The government ordered 31 million J&J one-time shots and planned to start giving them to people over 60 starting May 17. The doses are ready for release at a pharmaceutical facility in Durban. Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd., which struck a deal with J&J to complete the final stages of production, but they will not be delivered by early this week as previously expected.
Instead, a lengthy safety review process needs to be carried out in conjunction with international regulators, Health Minister Zveli Mkhize said Sunday. Precautions were taken following a production failure at a factory owned by Emergent BioSolutions Inc. in the United States, where J&J shot materials were mixed with those used in doses developed by a British drug manufacturer. AstraZeneca Plc, which were produced in the same facility.
“We are confident that the final result will be positive and that if there are no further disruptions, Johnson & Johnson will be able to release stock from the Aspen plant,” Mkhize said.
Read More: Tens of Millions of J&J Doses Lying on Shelves, Awaiting FDA Approval
After being shipped, the vaccines will likely take a few days to reach the vaccination sites, which means the target date for their introduction, May 17, may be missed. This is a scenario the government will want to avoid given that it is grappling with Africa’s worst coronavirus outbreak and facing criticism for not being proactive in providing vaccines.
South Africa has already vaccinated 318,670 healthcare workers with J&J as part of a study that circumvented normal licensing procedures. This program, which aims to vaccinate 500,000 people, was put on hold for two weeks last month over concerns that the injection could lead to blood clots, but will not be affected by the latest detention because those doses were not produced at the Aspen plant. …
The government’s plans to release the AstraZeneca vaccines were delayed in February after a small study found they had little effect on mild infections caused by a variant of the virus first identified in South Africa. In addition to J&J vaccinations, the government has also ordered about 30 million vaccines in Pfizer Inc., the first 325,260 doses will arrive Sunday night, with 4.5 million doses expected by the end of next month.
More than 1.58 million cases of Covid-19 have been identified in the country, and more than 54,000 of them have died.