Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday said the government was concerned about reports of fake Covid-19 vaccines being sold in the country on the black market.
“We have noted that of late there has been the existence of reports of fake vaccines found in South Africa. This was brought to our attention by SAPS working with Interpol and we would like to indicate that it’s a very worrying issue. In our interministerial committee lead by Deputy President David Mabuza we’ve got a team that is looking at dealing with these problems and police are on high alert,” Mkhize said.
The minister was responding to a question in the National Assembly from UDM MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, who asked him about recent reports of syndicates selling fake vaccines.
Police on Sunday warned South Africans to be wary of unscrupulous persons selling counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines.
The warning follows a police raid in November last year of a warehouse in Germiston that resulted in hundreds of fake Covid-19 vaccines and masks worth R6 million seized after a global alert issued by Interpol. Four people were arrested for contravening the Counterfeit Goods Act and the Customs and Excise Act as well as contravention of the Medicines and Related Substances Act.
Mkhize said Covid-19 vaccines were not for sale in the country.
“We want to encourage our people to be aware that the vaccines are free at the point of administration. In the rest of the continent, this matter has also been taken up quite seriously and the governments in those countries are working with manufacturers to limit these particular black markets.
“We hope we will always be a step ahead of the black market and fake vaccine syndicates,” the minister said.
He added that the government was the sole purchaser of vaccines.
“Our procurement process is to ensure there is a very short line between the purchaser and producers. We are buying directly from the manufacturers even though there are many people in between who have offered to sell the vaccines. But because we have a direct relationship with the manufacturers, we are able to do so. That limits the number of vaccines that can come through outside the lines the government has designated,” Mkhize said.
Mkhize said the government was still committed to vaccinating 65% of the adult population (40 million people) to achieve population immunity by the end of the year.
He said they had agreements with Johnson & Johnson to procure 11 million doses of its single-dose vaccine and 20 million doses from Pfizer.
“In addition, there is a commitment to procure 12 million doses from Covax. The delivery schedule from J&J is divided into quarterly, not monthly volumes,” he said.