Department of Health
The health minister, Zweli Mkhize, has called on all leaders in all sectors of society to help overcome vaccine hesitancy by “availing themselves to be vaccinated early as and when they are requested”.
The minister made the call during the debate on the 2021 State of the Nation Address in the national assembly yesterday.
The minister confirmed that the health department was ready to roll out the first batch of vaccines.
The first batch of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrived in South Africa last night.
20 vaccination centres in all nine provinces have been identified to inoculate 80 000 health care workers over the next two weeks.
The minister confirmed that “164 vaccinators will vaccinate approximately 48 clients a day- that is about 6-7 clients an hour. As more doses arrive the service will be ramped up accordingly to ensure that we maintain a good rate of daily vaccines”.
According to the minister, approximately 380 000 healthcare workers have registered on the registration portal for the vaccinations campaign – the Electronic Vaccination Data System- in just under 2 weeks.
The minister emphasized that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has a 57% efficacy against the 501Y.V2 variant and is fully protective against serious illness or death.
“The immediate rollout of phase one vaccination with Johnson and Johnson through the SISONKE protocol has been made possible by the fact that the 300 000 doses of the now proven and efficacious Johnson and Johnson vaccine were already tested and approved by SAHPRA for use under study conditions”, he said.
The minister reiterated that the state will be the sole purchaser of the vaccines for the country, irrespective of the manufacturer and source.
“The vaccines will be predominantly funded by the fiscus whilst the private sector, in particular private health funders, will augment the funding and other resources required to implement the programme”, he said.
Therefore, vaccination will be free at the point of care and no citizen should pay out of pocket when they get inoculated.
The minister also announced that the Astra Zeneca doses purchased from the Serum Institute of India have been “offered to the African Union platform, of which we are part of, and the AU will distribute to those countries who have already expressed interest in acquiring the stock”.
Meanwhile, in another statement, the health ministry refuted claims in the media that president Ramaphosa and the health minister were engaged in a tussle over vaccines.
The ministry emphasized that the “working relationship between President Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy President David Mabuza, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, Cabinet and the National Coronavirus Command Council, has been one of support, value and efficiency”.
The ministry also clarified that officials from the national department of health and national treasury are responsible for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
In response to claims that the decision to order vaccines from Johnson & Johnson was made to benefit pharmaceutical company, Aspen, the statement adds that no orders for vaccines will be placed with Aspen as the current agreement is being negotiated directly with Johnson & Johnson.
“While Aspen was contracted to supply Johnson & Johnson’s needs, it does not have a direct contract with South Africa’s government.”
The ministry pointed out that “Aspen has been contracted by Johnson & Johnson directly to do the ‘fill and finish’ on South African shores, which for us is a major advancement in local vaccine manufacturing which as country we need to build further”.