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GOVT TURNS TO PFIZER, J&J VACCINES

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MBABANE – The country is in the process of securing the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines.

This is according to the Minister of Health, Lizzie Nkosi, who said the ministry was still in the process of securing the two mentioned vaccines among other vaccine candidates, through the African Union (AU).

The minister said this yesterday when she was asked to explain government’s next move with regard to securing the COVID-19 vaccines in the country after announcing that the procuring of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine had been delayed for now. 

Worth noting is that the minister announced a few days ago, that the country had already secured the -20 degrees Celsius Johnson & Johnson refrigerator and the -70 degree Celsius Pfizer BioNTech refrigerator was in the pipeline.

Following the latest findings that the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was less effective against the South African COVID-19 variant, South Africa stopped the enrolment of the vaccine. 

The Eswatini Ministry of Health also decided to halt buying the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine because of the close proximity between Eswatini and South Africa while still doing studies to determine how much of the variant is in local shores.

When asked which vaccine was the country hoping to immediately secure now that government was no long keen in getting the AstraZeneca vaccine, Nkosi said they were keeping their minds opened with the choices of the other candidate vaccines.

“Besides securing the Oxford AstraZeneca, we were also in the process of securing a mix of other candidate vaccines like the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer BioNTech vaccine through the African Union. The country did not totally depend on the Oxford AstraZeneca,” said the minister.

Timelines

When asked if halting the procurement of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine would impact the timelines the country had set in rolling out the vaccines, Nkosi said it would not.

“Our main priority was to bring vaccines for healthcare workers by end of February and we are still intending on doing that, besides the mishap. We will then enrol vaccines for phase two between April and June as planned,” said Nkosi. The minister went on to state that they were still waiting on findings, to  know if they should continue securing the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine or not.

“We have taken our swabs for testing to South Africa and they are not back yet. They might determine our choices moving forward,” said Nkosi.

WHO Health Promotion Officer Dr Kevin Makadzange said they also advised the delay of securing the Oxford AstraZenecaCOVID-19 vaccines until the risk benefit assessment was completed.

“A country should make tests, to assess the probability of the South African variants against the COVID-19 known strains. If the probability of having the South African variant is low, then they could consider using the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines,” said Dr Makadzange.



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