South Africa is promised 9 million J&J vaccine shots - Business Day

Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Johnson & Johnson logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa, which has yet to receive its first coronavirus vaccine, has been promised 9 million doses by Johnson & Johnson, the Business Day newspaper reported on Monday, citing a health ministry spokeswoman.

The government of Africa’s most advanced economy is scrambling to secure enough COVID-19 vaccines, after health workers and scientists publicly criticised it for not moving fast enough to inoculate its people.

The country has recorded more than 1.3 million infections and more than 37,000 deaths related to the virus, the most in Africa.

Business Day said the 9 million J&J doses took the total amount of doses South Africa had been promised to more than 30 million. Roughly 12 million doses are coming from the COVAX global vaccine distribution scheme, around 12 million from an African Union arrangement, and 1.5 million from the Serum Institute of India which is making AstraZeneca shots.

Health ministry spokeswoman Lwazi Manzi did not respond to messages or a phone call seeking comment. J&J did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Anban Pillay, deputy director-general at the health ministry, told Reuters that in addition to the 20 million doses that President Cyril Ramaphosa said last week had been secured, “additional doses have been secured but we cannot make announcements until we close a couple of matters with the suppliers”.

The health ministry said earlier this month that it was in advanced negotiations with J&J. Local pharmaceutical company Aspen will be manufacturing J&J shots but unless a firm agreement is signed with the South African government all those doses will be exported.

Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Nick Macfie