Friday, 08 January 2021

Pretoria: Healthcare workers will be first in line for inoculation after South Africa secured 1.5 million doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine which will be rolled out this month.

According to Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, the country will receive one million doses of the vaccine in January, while the rest of the batch will arrive in February from the Serum Institute of India (SII).

In his announcement on Thursday, the Minister said government will prioritise about 1.25 million healthcare workers in both the public and private sectors from different spectrum, including doctors, nurses, general workers, security personnel and so on.

“The National Department of Health and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) were fine-tuning and aligning all the regulation processes to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays or regulatory impediments to activate this roll-out,” said the Minister.

The Minister is delighted that the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine has already been given the green light by various regulators and is being distributed in other countries.

“Therefore, as part of expediting the regulatory process, SAHPRA is applying reliance on that regulatory work.”

Mkhize said engagements with relevant stakeholders to ensure the efficient and effective vaccination drive for health workers is ready to take off.

Meanwhile, he has urged the public to be patient as government continues to engage manufacturers.

“Our commitment remains to save and protect the lives of our people. We will not neglect our responsibility to protect lives and fight this pandemic,” he vowed.

“We, therefore, call on all South Africans, members of the public, political parties, business, labour, non-governmental organisations, and community leaders and members to work with us as we start this historic process.”

He has assured the public that the acquisition of the vaccine from the manufacturer was done directly by the Department of Health to strengthen credibility, while negotiations and payment are managed directly by government.

In an interview with Morning Live on Friday, Mkhize said the State is working around the clock to acquire the number of vaccines needed for two-thirds of the population.

“I just want to assure all South Africans [that] we are on course,” he stressed.

He also told Newzroom Afrika that the availability of the vaccine is a real boost in the fight against COVID-19.

He said government has spoken to the SII, while President Cyril Ramaphosa has been in touch with the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.

“We have our agreement and will receive the vaccines. There is no issue on our end,” he told the news channel.

The Serum Institute of India manufactures highly specialised life-saving biologicals like vaccines using cutting edge genetic and cell-based technologies, antisera and other medical specialities.

According to Al Jazeera, the SII is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing company, contracted by AstraZeneca to produce a billion doses for developing nations, including India.

The United Kingdom became the first country to approve the jab last month, securing 100 million doses.”