First batch of Pfizer vaccines expected in SA by midnight on Sunday

A health worker receives her Covid-19 vaccine. File photo.
A health worker receives her Covid-19 vaccine. File photo.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times

The first batch of Pfizer vaccines — 325,260 doses — is expected to arrive in SA shortly before midnight on Sunday amid strict security measures, health minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.

“The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) has considered all the security arrangements — from when the vaccine lands at OR Tambo International, to when it is transported to the vaccination sites,” he said.

“They have engaged all security agencies to ensure all necessary security procedures are in place for safe delivery of the vaccines and made the necessary arrangements with the police.”

He said on arrival, the entire batch will be transported initially to a central warehouse while samples will be sent to the National Control Laboratory for quality assurance. After clearance, it will be distributed to the various provinces.

“Following this initial delivery of Pfizer we are expecting approximately the same number of doses to arrive on a weekly basis to a total of more than 1.3 million doses by the end of May.

“Thereafter the vaccine supply will increase to an average of 636,480 doses weekly from  May 31, which will see us accumulating close to 4.5 million doses by the end of June,” Mkhize said.

In regards to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the department has received communication that the doses awaiting dispatch in Gqeberha are expected to be released around the middle of May.

“This is due to a protracted safety verification process with international regulatory agencies (FDA, EMA and Sahpra). This is a precautionary measure following the adverse findings during inspection of Emergent BioSolutions' Bayview facility in the US, one of the manufacturing partners of Johnson & Johnson, which prompted the authorities to extend their assessments of all Johnson & Johnson stock worldwide.”

Mkhize gave assurances that these assessments were still under way.

“We are confident that the final outcome will be positive and that, provided there are no further disruptions, Johnson & Johnson will be in a position to release the stock from the Aspen plant in Gqeberha by the middle of May.

“In the meantime, we will continue to vaccinate our healthcare workers with the remaining early access doses of Johnson & Johnson (through the Sisonke Protocol) and we will proceed to vaccinate with Pfizer.”

He again encouraged all healthcare workers, including traditional healers, and people 60 years and older to register to receive the vaccine.

TimesLIVE


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