First batch of Pfizer vaccines will arrive in SA on Sunday night, says Mkhize

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Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize.
Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize.
  • Health Minister Zeli Mkhize says that Pfizer vaccines will land in the country on Sunday night.
  • This initial delivery will be followed by the arrival of approximately the same number of doses on a weekly basis.
  • Healthcare workers, including traditional healers and citizens above the age of 60, are encouraged to register on the EVDS.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says the first batch of Pfizer vaccines will land at OR Tambo International Airport on Sunday evening.

The first 325 260 doses would arrive at 23:45, Mkhize said in a statement.

"Upon arrival, the entire batch will be transported initially to a central warehouse. Samples will be sent to the National Control Laboratory for quality assurance and, after release, will be distributed to the provinces," he said.

Mkhize added that the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) had considered all the security arrangements from when the doses land to when they are transported to the vaccination sites.

"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.

He said following this initial delivery of Pfizer, the ministry expected approximately the same number of doses to arrive weekly - to a total of more than 1.3 million doses by the end of May.

Mkhize said: 

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

READ: Covid-19: Sahpra approves vaccine use for high-risk pregnant women  

He said, with regards to Johnson and Johnson, they had received communication that the doses awaiting dispatch in Gqeberha were expected to be released mid-May.

This is due to a "protracted safety verification process with international regulatory agencies".  

"This is a precautionary measure following the adverse findings during inspection of Emergent BioSolutions Bayview facility in the United States of America, one of the manufacturing partners of Johnson & Johnson, which prompted the authorities to extend their assessments of all Johnson and Johnson stock worldwide. These assessments are still underway," Mkhize said. 

The health department said that it was confident that the outcome would be positive and, provided that there were no further disruptions, Johnson & Johnson would be in a position to release the stock from the Aspen plant in Gqeberha by mid-May. 

According to Mkhize, the stock was currently ready for dispatch.  

READ | OPINION: Once mass vaccinations start, we need to administer at least 250 000 doses per day

"In the meantime, we will continue to vaccinate our health care workers with the remaining early access doses of Johnson and Johnson (through the Sisonke Protocol), and we will proceed to vaccinate with Pfizer.

"We, therefore, continue to call on all healthcare workers, including traditional healers, and all citizens 60-years and above to register on the EVDS as we continue to roll out vaccines."

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