South Africa gets surprise batch of 20 million COVID-19 vaccines

South Africa will receive another 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer, according to a report by The Sunday Times.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed to the publication that these vaccines had been secured by the government and that only final agreements on delivery details and exact pricing were outstanding.

“We are negotiating, largely with Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, but some of it is coming via the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and Covax,” Mkhize said.

“We are reasonably comfortable that what we have paid for, signed for and are negotiating for will cover the numbers that we are looking to vaccinate,” he said.

It is important that the vaccines are properly stored at -70 degrees before they are shipped to vaccination sites – a requirement that Mkhize said would be addressed mostly by facilities at universities and tenders.

“We have some capacity, mostly at academic institutions. There are now companies coming forward with storage and transit solutions and we will advertise for bids for tenders on 5 February,” Mkhize said.

Following Mkhize’s unexpected announcement, this means that the country has secured the supply of over 40 million vaccine doses, which brings it much closer to the goal of vaccinating two-thirds of the population.

COVID-19 vaccine registration

Government has begun to implement the framework of its vaccine rollout in South Africa, beginning with an online Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS).

This system will be used to capture all relevant data associated with the administration of the vaccine in South Africa.

South Africans will be required to register on this system before they receive a COVID-19 vaccine, the Department of Health has stated.

The first consignment of 1 million COVID-19 vaccines, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, is due to arrive in the country on 1 February.

DOH Acting Chief Operating Officer (COO) Milani Wolmarans explained the EVDS is linked to supply chain management to ensure that there are enough doses to inoculate the vaccinees when they arrive at the local vaccination service site.

In accordance with the vaccination rollout strategy, healthcare workers will be the first groups to be enrolled for vaccination via an online app linked to the EVDS, followed by essential workers.

Government is also set to launch an online self-registration portal tied to the system in the first week of February.

Vaccine rollout plan

South Africans will gain access to the vaccine according to a rollout plan previously announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

This rollout prioritises frontline and healthcare workers, following which essential workers and those who are institutionalised will have the vaccine administered.

After these high-risk groups are vaccinated, the remaining adult population will have access to the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

This rollout plan is summarised below.

  • Phase 1: Frontline and healthcare workers.
  • Phase 2: Essential workers, institutionalised persons, and the elderly.
  • Phase 3: The remaining adult population.

The COVID-19 vaccines purchased by South Africa will comprise two doses, administered one to three weeks apart.

These two-shot COVID-19 vaccines will only begin to provide protection from the virus one week after the second dosage is administered.

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South Africa gets surprise batch of 20 million COVID-19 vaccines