SA negotiating for Sputnik, Sinovac, Sinopharm vaccines – Mkhize
Cape Town – As the things come firmly together in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has the least of the worries with the public being hesitant being inoculated.
It was the view Mkhize shared when he briefed the National Assembly committee on health this week.
He said notwithstanding the conspiracy theories about the vaccine, there was confidence fostered by the scientific community to assure South Africans to appreciate and have full confidence in how the government handled the procurement and related matters.
A recent study by the Human Sciences Research Council has found that a majority of people were keen to be inoculated.
“My major concern at this point is not vaccine hesitancy, but it is that there is going to be an overwhelming desire to participate in vaccination.
“We need to send very good communication for the people to understand that they should not swarm the vaccination sites ahead of numbers of vaccines to be available,” Mkhize said.
The minister was optimistic that in the third and fourth quarters of the year, more vaccines would be available.
“Our systems would be much better oiled. We will appeal with our people to cooperate with us so that we don’t have overwhelming numbers at the sites.”
The country is busy vaccinating the healthcare workers as part of the first phase of vaccination programme and good cooperation have been experienced
“We all have a part to play to build this confidence and implement the ambitious vaccination roll out campaign of all time,” Mkhize said.
He told the MPs that in protecting the people and making the economy safe, each MP was in a position to mobilise his constituency and that the government provide information to empower them to play an enabling role for communities to participate in the vaccination programme.
“We need all leaders to be working together as we communicate what is to happen in the communities so that from leadership there is one message.”
The country is aiming to vaccinate about 41 million of the adult population over a period of a year.
The plan shared with the health portfolio committee showed that Phase 1 will run from February 17 until May 17, targeting 608 295 healthcare workers.
This will be followed by Phase 2 that will run from May 17 until July 31, targeting 5 449 980 people, and Phase 2b from August to October 31, aimed at 12 900 160 people.
Phase 3 will run from November to February 28 targeting 22 600 640 people.
Briefing the committee, the department’s technical adviser, Dr Aquina Thulare said 775 912 health-care workers have registered on the electronic vaccination data system (EVDS).
Responding to questions on the speed of the roll-out, Mkhize said they had acknowledged that it depended on the number of vaccines received.
The AstraZeneca doses, which were distributed to AU countries after concerns over their efficacy for the 501Y variant, had an impact.
“If it was not for that, we would have vaccinated as many people, but the delay has been a result of the fact that we could not use those vaccines, and of late we started with Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”
Mkhize said that as announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, in addition to 1 million doses that were secured from Johnson & Johnson, South Africa successfully wanted 20 million more.
“We are currently negotiating terms of the additional doses.
“This means that we have 31 million doses of Johnson & Johnson in the pipeline.”
He said the number was confirmed and that they have to close the agreement in a matter of a day or two.
Mkhize also said the rate of delivery has been slow because of issues of contractual nature, among others.
“The delay has a lot with the technicalities of negotiations. We are getting over that problem.
’We expect no similar challenges in the future.”
He told the MPs that they were looking at vaccinating a minimum 40 million people in 12 months.
“The overall thrust is that we try to reach as many South Africans as possible.
“I would not say we are moving the goalposts.”
Mkhize remained confident that the country was still on track with this regarding time frame, despite the delay in the first phase.
In addition to the 31 million doses from Johnson & Johnson they signed term sheet with Pfizer for 20 million doses, signed an agreement with Covax for 12 million doses and were participating in the AU initiative.
The department’s director-general has been directed to complete negotiations with Sputnik, Sinovac and Sinopharm manufacturers and report back on an urgent basis.