South Africa’s slowing Covid-19 vaccine rate driven by vaccine hesitancy has prompted government to ask Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer to delay the delivery of more doses because the country now has too much stock.

Speaking to Reuters, Acting Health Director-General Dr Nicholas Crisp said South Africa has 16.8 million doses in stock which is enough for 158 days if the current rate of vaccination continues.

Around 35% of South Africans are fully vaccinated, which is half the target government wanted to reach by the end of the year. While up to 200 000 vaccines were administered daily in previous months, it has now slowed down to an average 106 000 doses in the last 15 days.

Aspen Pharmacare Senior Executive responsible for Strategic Trade Development, Stavros Nicolaou told Reuters that most of the vaccines bound for South Africa would now go to the rest of the continent where some countries have a vaccination rate of less than 5% of their populations.

Nicolaou, who is also chairman of public health at Business for South Africa (B4SA), said deliveries would likely be deferred until the first quarter of next year.

Vaccines packaged at Aspen’s plant are part of the African Union’s agreement to buy 220 million doses from J&J.

South Africa which accounts for the most infections on the continent is third on the list of African countries that have administered the most vaccines at almost 25 million doses. Morocco is leading with around 48.5 million doses followed by Egypt with more than 36 million doses.