After a long wait, watching while millions of people around the world received their various vaccinations against the novel coronavirus, a million doses of the Oxford University developed AstraZeneca vaccine will finally land in South Africa on 1 February.
However, said Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, it would be between 10 and 14 days before the vaccine left quarantine, as specified by law.
There would also be quality assurance, reconciliation of the number of vials, a check to see if any were broken in the transit from India, which were all necessary for the safe distribution of the vaccine.
Once all the processes were completed, Mkhize said the vaccines would be ready to distribute to all the provinces.
“The national vaccination campaign is a government led initiative, necessarily supported by other sectors such as civil society, the unions, and the private sector,” Mkhize said last night.
He noted it was hoped SA would achieve population immunity through vaccination by the end of the year.
Mkhize said Treasury had put its “full weight and support” behind the programme.
“They have granted us all the necessary deviations we requested and committed to financing additional orders,” Mkhize said.
The Department of Health had made a direct application to the South African Health Products Authority (Sahpra) for section 21 approval to supply the Serum Institute of India manufactured under licence of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“This approval was granted,” Mkhize said.
Approval and a waiving of a 30 day consultation period of the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) regulations, pertaining to the import of GMO foods, was also sought, and obtained, from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development.
“This is in line with the requirements of urgency under the disaster management situation,” said Mkhize.
“We are therefore pleased from a regulatory standpoint we are cleared to move ahead with the rollout of the vaccine and the mass inoculation campaign.”
Sahpra, which had finally approved limited “compassionate” use of ivermectin for use against Covid-19, noted an application had also been received from Pfizer for its vaccine.
Editor’s note: The acronym Saphra was accidentally incorrectly reported as standing for the South African Health Professionals Authority in an earlier version of this article. Saphra is the South African Health Products Authority. We apologise for the error.