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Serum Institute reimburses S.Africa for undelivered doses of AstraZeneca




South African Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize confirms the first case of Coronavirus in South Africa in Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, 5 March 2020. Reuters / Sumaya Hisham / File Photo

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – India’s Serum Institute has fully reimbursed the cost of 500,000 doses of the AstraZenecas COVID-19 vaccine that South Africa did not want and had not yet delivered, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Thursday.

South Africa halted plans to launch AstraZeneca in early February after a small trial showed it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the dominant variant of the local coronavirus.

By then she had already paid for 1.5 million doses of the vaccine from the Serum Institute and had received the delivery of the first 1 million.

She headed for the Johnson & Johnsons single-dose vaccine administration in a research study targeting up to 500,000 healthcare workers and sold 1 million doses of AstraZeneca in other African countries.

The funds are in our bank account. That’s why it closes the case, Mkhize said.

He added that J&J – whose vaccine was approved for use in South Africa last week – had confirmed it would supply about 1.1 million doses this month. The government also expects to receive the first batch of the two-dose Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine this month, he said.

Between the J&J and Pfizer deals, South Africa has secured a supply of 51 million doses, enough to vaccinate approximately two-thirds of its 60 million people.

Mkhize said it aimed to inoculate up to 270,000 people a day at the height of its campaign, in order to achieve broad-based population immunity within a year.

Reporting by Wendell Roelf and Alexander Winning; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Kevin Liffey

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