South Africa wants to return 1 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Serum Institute: report

FILE PHOTO: 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

BENGALURU (Reuters) - South Africa wants to return the one million COVID-19 vaccine doses it has received from Serum Institute of India, The Economic Times reported on Tuesday, a week after the country said it would put on hold use of AstraZeneca's shot in its vaccination program.

Serum Institute of India, which is producing AstraZeneca's shot, has emerged as a key vaccine supplier. One million doses of the vaccine landed in South Africa last week and another 500,000 were due to arrive in the next few weeks.

The company said it had no comments on the matter.

South Africa's health minister has said the government may sell doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, after the country paused its rollout following a small clinical trial that showed the shot offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from the 501Y.V2 coronavirus variant dominant in the country.

The African country, which is yet to launch its COVID-19 vaccination program, has decided to start vaccinating health workers with Johnson & Johnson's vaccine in the form of an "implementation study" with researchers.

The Economic Times report also comes as the World Health Organization on Monday listed the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

(Reporting by Ann Maria Shibu, Shubham Kalia and Anuron Kumar Mitra in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill and Krishna Chandra Eluri)