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COVID-19: S.Africa risks destroying 100,000 vaccine doses due to slow uptake

Approximately 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine are at risk of being destroyed by the end of this month due to low demand by citizens, South African health authorities reported on Friday.

The country has recorded the most COVID-19 infections and deaths on the African continent, however inoculations have slowed and now South Africa has vaccine stocks of about 25 million doses.

“There is a risk that just over 100,000 or so doses, which are going to expire by the end of March… may have to be discarded… We hope it will not reach that stage,” Joe Phaahla, the country’s Health Minister, told an online news conference.

He said the department was trying to ramp up inoculations to save the vaccine doses from getting thrown away.

South Africa has so far fully vaccinated around 43 percent of its 40 million adults. The country’s vaccination campaign, using the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Pfizer vaccines, got off to a slow start due to difficulties securing early supplies but more recently has been dogged by hesitancy.

Last month, the country changed its COVID-19 vaccination directive by shortening the interval between the first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine from 42 to 21 days and allowing people who have received two doses of Pfizer to get a booster dose three months after their second shot as opposed to the previous span of six months between doses.

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