‘We are on track with vaccines,’ Mkhize says

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has assured that South Africa will receive its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines later this month, with national distribution planned for February.

Speaking on Newzroom Afrika and the SABC this morning, the minister addressed concerns which emerged after Thursday’s announcement that an agreement had been reached with Serum Institute of India (SII) to procure 1.5-million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“We have spoken to the SII. Our president has been in touch with the Prime Minister of India and we are aware that India is trying to boost its own reserves. But we have an agreement that we will get the vaccine. We are comfortable that we will get the supplies,” Mkhize said.

“We will be clearer after a few days when they have indicated what the dispatch schedule will be like. We do expect that we will get the first million doses in January. We do anticipate that we will be able to use that latest at the beginning of February.

We should be acquiring more doses before the first batch is finished in such a way where we can do the 1.5 million healthcare workers and later we will have the second dose to take us through to full vaccination. You need three to four weeks between doses and therefore we think this time will allow us time to get additional doses.”

Mkhize said the initial tranche of vaccines will not only be focused on doctors and nurses, but all staff at medical facilities.

“The estimation takes us to 1.5 million because it covers public and private hospitals, clinics, emergency ambulances, porters, cleaners and general workers. We do not just mean doctors or nurses; it is anyone who handles a patient’s security. It is a whole spectrum,” he said.

“We are targeting health workers and as soon as we get batches to cover the next phase, we will then focus on all frontline workers like teachers, the police, the army, and people who are serving the public.”