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South Africa sells its AstraZeneca vaccine doses to AU

South Africa has sold a million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for distribution in 14 fellow African nations, the health minister announced Sunday.

South Africa last month suspended its vaccination programme, which had started with AstraZeneca jabs, after doubts were raised over that vaccine’s efficacy against a local variant of Covid-19.

Pretoria instead announced its intention to sell its AstraZeneca doses to the African Union (AU).

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement that “the first batch of vaccines that is being delivered will benefit 9 (AU) member states. The balance will be collected this week to be delivered to 5 other countries”.

South Africa began immunising its 59 million people in early February with doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced in India.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa was on the airport tarmac to receive the first shipment.

However a study by the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg pointed to a “limited” efficacy of the AstraZeneca jab against the South African variant of Covid-19. The government then suspended its vaccine rollout programme.

World Health Organization experts have since given the AstraZeneca jab the all-clear, saying it can be used in all countries and against all variants.

The African Union has acquired 270 million vaccine doses and has declared that it is quite happy to distribute the AstraZeneca version.

South Africa has registered 1.5 million coronavirus cases including 52,000 fatalities.

However recently the number of new cases has dropped significantly and last month Ramaphosa announced that the second wave of the virus had passed.

The country has ordered vaccine does from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer and now hopes to immunise two-thirds of the population, though so far only 183.000 doses have been administered. AFP