BY VANESSA GONYE
ZIMBABWE has authorised the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccine Ad26.COV2-S, commonly referred to as Johnson and Johnson, manufactured by Janssen Biologics.
The Johnson and Johnson vaccine becomes the fifth to be approved for use in the country after the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac, the Russia’s Sputnik V and the Indian Covaxin.
The Johnson and Johnson drug becomes the first Western vaccine to be approved by MCAZ amid fierce resistance from government bureaucrats.
In a statement dated May 25, 2021, the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) said it reviewed the technical documentation and clinical studies conducted, and issued Emergency Use Authorisation for the Health and Child Care ministry (MOHCC) to consider adding Johnson and Johnson to the vaccines for use in Zimbabwe.
“This EUA was subject to a number of considerations, which include ensuring there is adequate cold storage capacity to store the vaccines and also ensuring there is robust side effects monitoring in place to monitor for potential side effects,” MCAZ said.
“MOHCC would then decide whether to deploy the vaccines in Zimbabwe or not, our responsibility as MCAZ is to ensure that we conduct the risk-benefit analysis prior to issuance of the EUA.”
The emergency use authorisation of the vaccine is valid for 12 months or until the public health emergency ends.
Government is yet to take a clear position on the vaccine, and efforts to get a comment from the Health ministry were fruitless.
Last month, government rejected a donation of three million doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, with authorities saying they were not prepared to deal with the refrigeration requirements and possible side effects.
Unopened vials of the vaccine have a shelf life of 24 months when stored in a freezer at -25 degrees Celsius to -15 degrees Celsius.
The issue immediately turned political when presidential spokesperson George Charamba chided the West for donating to a country that is under Western sanctions.
The Johnson and Johnson vaccine came after the country yesterday took delivery of 800 000 Sinopham vaccines and is expected to receive 700 000 more today.
So far, Zimbabwe has taken delivery of 6 085 000 doses of vaccines, and today’s delivery will push it to 6 785 000.
The country is looking at inoculating 60% of its adult population to achieve herd immunity.
By yesterday morning, 1 522 150 people had received the first jab, with 694 685 having been fully vaccinated.