It’s emerged that the over 1 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses that arrived with much fanfare in South Africa last Monday expire in April.
This was only picked up when the jabs arrived in the country.
The vaccines have a 6-month life span, and authorities are looking to engage with the Serum Institute of India to swap the current batch or if the expiry date can be pushed back.
The AstraZeneca vaccine was scheduled to be rolled out by Wednesday to healthcare workers, but that process has now been paused.
The expiry date discovery coincides with news that preliminary findings from a study led by the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and Oxford university show that the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine does not appear to offer protection against mild and moderate disease caused by the viral variant first identified in South Africa.
The findings of the study are due to be released Monday.
Vaccine roll out on hold
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said Sunday that scientists needed to complete further studies because of the new variant, and therefore, the roll out of the AstraZeneca jabs has been placed on hold.
Mkhize said while scientists conclude studies linked to the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine on the so-called SA strain, SA will hold on to the shipment it’ll not be sent back.
He said the batch, which expires in April, might be swapped out for stock with a later expiry date.
Deputy Director-General at the DoH, Dr. Anban Pillay, confirmed that the AstraZeneca jabs expire in April, adding that this was only discovered when the vaccines arrived last Monday.
It’s understood that the government has contacted the Serum Institute of India to enquire if Pretoria can exchange it for a new batch.
They are also looking to find out if the ‘expiry date can be pushed back’ whatever that means.
South Africans reacted to news with tongue-in-cheek post on Twitter.