Covid-19: SA in talks with China for two million vaccine doses, also considering Russia's Sputnik V

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Zweli Mkhize.
Zweli Mkhize.
Lulama Zenzile
  • South Africa is in talks with China to procure two million doses of SinoPharm, says Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
  • Negotiations are also ongoing with Russia over Sputnik V. 
  • More details on the J&J rollout are expected soon. 

South Africa is turning to China to supply Covid-19 vaccines as the country prepares to inoculate healthcare workers. 

Answering questions before the parliamentary health committee on Wednesday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the country was in talks with Chinese authorities to procure two million doses of the SinoPharm vaccine.

"We are dealing with the issue of pricing and the process of the application to SAHPRA [South African Health Products Regulatory Authority]."

READ | Phase 1 of vaccine rollout will continue with Johnson & Johnson, says Mkhize

South Africa is trying to get more vaccines following the temporary pause of the AstraZeneca rollout as more studies are being done on the doses. Currently, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being fast-tracked so it can be given to healthcare workers as early as next week, but details on delivery are still outstanding. 

READ | Covid-19 antibody tests now cost as little as R130

The minister said he could not give any more details on the SinoPharm deal as there was a non-disclosure agreement in place with China. South Africa is also speaking to Russia regarding the supply of Sputnik V. Other vaccines that the country will receive include Pfizer and Moderna. 

Change of plans 

While talks with other manufacturers are still ongoing, Mkhize said they had approached the Serum Institute of India, which manufactured AstraZeneca, about the 500 000 doses that the country is still supposed to receive from them.

"We will be discussing with Covax because it should be possible to swap it if there is a need. We might get a different vaccine if that is what is needed," Mkhize said. 

EXPLAINER | What you need to know about the postponement of SA's vaccination plans

The country has also had to, at the last minute, adjust its vaccine rollout plan.

"The rollout plan is changing and once we have all the details we will discuss it. We will give out more details soon. The J&J doses that were linked to the trial were already approved by SAHPRA."

He said it was likely that they might use J&J stock that was approved to be used during clinical trials.

"We will have to be flexible because there might not be enough stock."

Third wave 

Mkhize again warned that if people failed to follow non-pharmaceutical interventions like wearing masks and social distancing, a third wave was imminent.

"The second wave has come because of the conditions that we are living under. We continue to preach that people follow the rules. In the meantime, we need to accelerate vaccination."

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