South Africa, which has just entered a third wave of COVID-19 infections, announced the recall of two million Johnson & Johnson vaccines due to a problem during their manufacture in the United States.
The South African drug regulator SAPHRA “made the decision not to distribute vaccines produced from batches of inappropriate medicinal components,” it said in a statement.
US authorities said several batches – equivalent to several million doses – manufactured in Baltimore will have to be discarded.
The tests carried out revealed that components of the British AstraZeneca vaccine, produced in the same place, were mistakenly mixed with the Johnson & Johnson formula.
The South African Minister of Health, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, who recognized a setback in the vaccination program, said on Saturday that the affected batches are stored in a laboratory in Port Elizabeth (south).
South Africa, with a population of 59 million, has delivered 31 million units of this single-dose immunizing agent.
The country also got 30 million of the injectable from Pfizer, which requires two doses and must be stored at very low temperatures.
The government already temporarily suspended administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in April, after some cases of blood clots were detected in the United States.
In February, South African authorities also gave up more than 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca, doubting its efficacy against the local variant of the virus.
South Africa, the African country hardest hit by the pandemic with almost 58,000 deaths from more than 1.7 million infections, has only vaccinated just over 1% of its population.