The jabs don’t seem to be effective against the new variant and their expiry date is in April.

South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccine drive has hit a serious hurdle, creating a major setback for the country’s immunisation efforts. There are two main issues that have come to light yesterday. Firstly, the vaccines don’t seem to be effective against the new variant of COVID-19 in the country. 

The Financial Times noted that a study found this specific vaccine did not offer protection against mild-moderate Covid-19 due to the SA strain. The study has, however, not yet been peer-reviewed and the research was performed on a small segment of the population. At this stage, no randomised control trials have been done to prove that the vaccines are indeed ineffective against the new strain. Before vaccinating the adult population, these trials will need to be done to provide proof that it is worth using on South Africans.

Experts have noted that the major problem is that the vaccines have been developed with the original version of COVID-19 in mind. These vaccines are being called “first-generation vaccines” and may not be ideal for South Africa – the birthplace of the B.1.351 variant.

Some researchers have argued that vaccines like the one produced by Johnson & Johnson might be effective against the new variant as initial studies have proven this point. Additional studies still need to be done, though. 

The second issue is that the vaccines received from India are set to expire in April. This particular vaccine requires two doses to be administered to citizens. Health officials are concerned that the early expiry date might mean that even if they were to proceed with the jabs, many people would not be able to get their second dose due to the expiry date. 

Other than that, the need for proper clinical trials will also significantly delay the timeline upon which average South Africans are hoping to get their jabs. 

The minister of health, dr. Zweli Mkhize, has said that South Africa’s plan of action is to drastically increase the sourcing of other vaccines like the one produced by Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. Both of these have shown efficacy against the South African variant.