South Africa plans to share AstraZeneca shots via African Union

A health official draws a dose of the AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, at Infectious Diseases Hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa plans to share the 1 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses it received from the Serum Institute of India with other African countries via the African Union (AU), a senior health official said on Tuesday.

The country paused the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine this month, after preliminary trial data showed it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from the country’s dominant coronavirus variant.

It plans to start inoculating healthcare workers with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine as soon as this week in a research study.

“The doses are going to be shared with countries on the continent, ... via the AU,” Anban Pillay, deputy director-general at the Department of Health, told Reuters.

He added that South Africa would look to recover money spent on the vaccine doses but was still finalising how to do that.

Pillay said a report in Indian newspaper The Economic Times that South Africa had asked the Serum Institute to take back the 1 million doses that arrived at the start of the month was not true.

Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Tim Cocks