Mkhize can’t provide answers during presentation.
With South Africa running against time on what to do with one million doses of the Indian-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine due to expire by April, there has been a scramble by other drug manufacturers and countries, lobbying government to sell the much-needed drug.
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, who is “awaiting advice and guidance” from scientists, is expected to spell out the country’s position on the AstraZeneca vaccine – received with much fanfare and originally meant to cover front-line healthcare workers on Thursday.
ALSO READ: SA switches gear on Covid-19 vaccine strategy – Mkhize
Mkhize, his deputy Dr Joe Phaahla and department deputy director-general Anban Pillay, who on Wednesday addressed the parliamentary portfolio committee on health, could not give satisfactory answers to National Freedom Party MP Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam when asked about the manufacturing and expiry date of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“How do we accept a vaccine without knowing the manufacturing and expiry date?” asked Shaik.
Amid the arguments, ANC MPs closed ranks in support of Mkhize and his team.
The health team’s PowerPoint presentation, which was not readily available to MPs at the start of the meeting, had to be rescheduled to later in the morning, with the Northern Cape team asked to move in, explaining its vaccine roll-out preparedness.
READ MORE: ‘We’ll buy the real stuff’ – Mkhize allays fears over fake Covid-19 vaccines
In its formal presentation, Pillay said the department of health’s approach to the Covid-19 pandemic was not that of being gullible to any drug available in the market, but to get more data and study the efficacy of each vaccine against the highly contagious variant, 501Y.V2.
With scientific evidence pointing to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine’s weak 22% efficacy against 501Y.V2, government has resolved to halt the roll-out of the Indian-manufactured drug.
Pillay said laboratory studies showed all vaccine-induced antibodies had greater difficulty in neutralising the 501Y.V2 variant compared to pre-existing variants.
For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.