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News24.com | Covid-19 vaccine: Gqeberha plant will soon deliver over 1 million doses, says Mkhize

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize. (Photo: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images)

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize. (Photo: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images)

  • Zweli Mkhize says the country has secured 51 million doses of vaccine from two manufacturers. 
  • The target is to vaccinate about 250 000 to 270 000 citizens a day, to reach population immunity within a year.
  • The Serum Institute of India has refunded the country for 500 000 AstraZeneca vaccines. 

Just over one million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine will be delivered by a Gqeberha plant in the next two weeks, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Thursday.

Mkhize, in a speech prepared for delivery in Gauteng, said the Aspen Plant in Gqeberha would deliver 1 099 200 doses between 22 and 24 April. 

This, he said, means healthcare workers and vulnerable groups can be vaccinated from the end of the month. 

“The exact date of delivery is currently awaiting the quality assurance processes, of which documentation has been submitted to the authorities already yesterday, 7 April 2021. This was done to ensure that the process can be fast-tracked without compromising the quality of the product that will be used for the inoculation of our people.”

Mkhize says 51 million doses have been secured from Pfizer/BioNTech and J&J. 

It means the country is still on track to reach its vaccination targets, he assured. 

He said J&J would give the country 31 million doses, while another 20 million would come from the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech product.

“This means we can now move ahead with confidence as we finalise the plans for our mass rollout campaign, which is officially due to begin at the conclusion of phase one on 17 May 2021.”

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Currently, the country is using J&J to vaccinate healthcare workers as part of the Sisonke implementation study. 

A final tranche of the 200 000 vaccines for the project was expected this weekend.

Mkhize said, because of the unavailability of direct flights from Belgium to South Africa, the doses will only land next week. 

“This will not derail us from meeting our targets,” Mkhize said. 

Vaccine delivery

“J&J has expressed its intent to deliver a subsequent batch of about 900 000 doses in May and June, and we expect a date and exact volumes to be firmed up in the next week or two. However, this batch may be coming from Belgium.

“Although this does increase the time from dispatch to site delivery by a few days, we will not feel the impact of this as we will already be rolling with the vaccinations at that stage.”

He said the country was concluding payments for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine deal.

“Upon conclusion, Pfizer will be in a position to break down their current quarterly commitments to a finer schedule, with a committed date for the delivery of the first batch. We, therefore, expect to receive the supply schedule early next week, provided there are no unforeseen glitches in the payment process.”

Once payment is confirmed, the company will be able to deliver the doses within 14 days. 

Mkhize said the provinces had identified thousands of sites, which were now being verified across the country, to prepare for the mass rollout.

READ | Pfizer vaccines are coming. Here’s how SA could prepare its cold chain

He added that the department would announce when the Electronic Vaccination Data System was ready for mass registrations. 

“We believe that … we can achieve the target of vaccinating approximately 250 to 270 000 citizens a day, at our peak.”

AstraZeneca refund 

Mkhize said, after selling the one million doses of AstraZeneca to the African Union (AU), the country had also secured a refund from the Serum Institute of India (SII). 

The country sold its AstraZeneca vaccines to the AU after it was found to not be efficacious against the 501Y.V2 variant dominant locally. 

After the initial one million doses were delivered, the SII was supposed to deliver another 500 000 doses.

“I am pleased to announce that our finance department has confirmed that the Serum Institute of India has fully refunded us for the remaining 500 000 doses that had not yet been delivered, and the funds are in our bank account.

“This, therefore, closes the matter without incurring fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and we continue to engage AstraZeneca as they pursue their research and development for the next-generation vaccine, which can hopefully deal with the 501Y.V2 variant and other lineages.”


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