Last week, the South African authorities asked the Serum Institute of India to take back the one million COVID-19 vaccine doses that the company had sent in early February. The move came a week after the country announced that it will halt the use of AstraZeneca’s shot in its vaccination program.

One million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine landed in South Africa last week and another 500,000 were due to arrive in the next few weeks. The vaccine was produced and supplied by the Serum Institute of India, which is producing the AstraZeneca vaccine and is currently a major vaccine supplier. 

The South African health minister stated that the move came in response to the fact that a small clinical trial showed that the vaccine provided minimal protection against the strain of COVID-19 dominant in the country, the 501Y.V2 coronavirus variant. The minister further added that the government may sell doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

Based on data from a study by South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand and the Oxford University, AstraZeneca has said its vaccine appeared to offer only limited protection against mild disease caused by the South African variant.

South Africa has not yet launched its COVID-19 inoculation programme, as of yet the country has decided to immunize frontline health workers with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in the form of an “implementation study” with researchers.


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