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South Africa giving unapproved Johnson & Johnson vaccine to health care workers

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South Africa will begin administering Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine to health care workers.

South African Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize said during a news briefing that the vaccine “has been proven effective against the 501Y.V2 variant and the necessary approval processes for use in South Africa are underway.”

Mkhize said the country will move forward with phase 1 of its vaccination strategy, which targets health care workers, in the form of an “implementation study” in partnership with the Medical Research Council and vaccination sites across the country.

In a statement to The Hill, Johnson & Johnson said it is in “advanced discussions with the South African government about potential additional collaborations to combat COVID-19 in the country, and we hope to be able to share more details in the coming days.”

“We are committed to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable and at-risk populations worldwide and to supporting further clinical understanding of the variants to help stop their spread,” the company said.

The change comes after South Africa paused rollout of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday after finding that it didn’t protect against the South African strain that has become dominant in the country.

The company is reportedly making a new version of the vaccine that would be effective against the variant, and could be available by the fall.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was found to be 66 percent effective in preventing moderate or severe disease overall. However, efficacy dropped from 72 percent in the U.S. to 57 percent in South Africa.

South Africa has seen almost 1.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, the largest number in Africa, which includes nearly 47,000 deaths, according to The Associated Press.

Tags AstraZeneca Coronavirus coronavirus vaccine COVID-19 johnson & johnson Johnson & Johnson South Africa

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