COLD chain and logistical issues could hinder Zimbabwe’s plans to deploy and administer the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine in the short distant future, a top health official has said.
By Michael Gwarisa
The development comes at the back of indications that the Southern African country also encountered capacity challenges during their rollout of the Russian manufactured Sputnik-V vaccine which is a viral vector vaccine just like the Johnson & Johnson jab.
Speaking during a Media Café that was organized by the Health Communicators Forum of Zimbabwe (HCFZ) in partnership with AVAC, Zimbabwe’s National COVID-19 Coordinator in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva said they have been holding a series of meetings to try and find a solution the prevailing challenges around the J&J vaccine deployment.
Indeed, we have had several meetings with the Medicine Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ), the Ministry of Health and Child (MoHCC) and other to look how we can deploy the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They looked at the science and they gave their reports on that. I know people always say, Oh the J&J has been given authorization, lets use it tomorrow but on the ground, if you look at the details, you find that it has got so many issues and challenges.
“When we sat with the ministry of health, they really were struggling with the capacities. You know we have got the Sputnik-V and we have just struggled to also roll that one out because it has similar requirements to the J&J. The ministry has been focusing on trying to make sure that their capacities are up to scratch,” said Dr Mahomva.
She added that they have been in touch with partners such as the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the COVAX Facility and others to ensure they get technical and resource assistance with regards to building capacity to store and deploy viral the J&J vaccine and other vaccines that require special cold chain capacity.
“We recently submitted through the inter emergency committee, we met, we sat and discussed this issue of the roll out of the J&J vaccine and we put together our proposal and after that they approached and said they would work to ensure the gaps we have are addressed.”
In June, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was granted the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ). Zimbabwe has to date approved five vaccines for rollout in Zimbabwe and these include the Sinopharm, Sinovac, COVAXIN, SPUTNIK-V and the Johnson and Johnson vaccines.
Dr Mahomva however indicated that Zimbabwe would in the meantime continue administering the Chinese manufactured Sinopharm and Sinopharm, both inactivated vaccines since Zimbabwe has enough expertise and capacity to store as well as deploy them to any part of the country.