OPENING REMARKS FOR HONOURABLE MINISTER DR. ZWELI MKHIZE PUBLIC WEBINAR: PHASE 1 INOCULATION 27 JANUARY 2020

 

The Deputy Minister Dr. Joe Phaahla
The Director General of Health Dr. Sandile Buthelezi
Esteemed Panelists
Senior Officials from the Department of Health
Colleagues in Health Care
Members of the Media
Fellow South Africans

 

Thank you for the opportunity to expand on the vaccination strategy and provide more details on phase one of the national SARS-COV-2 vaccination campaign.

We know that the nation has been keenly anticipating the arrival of the first batch of vaccines from the Serum Institute of India. I am therefore pleased to announce that the flight carrying the first one million doses will leave India on Sunday, 31 January 2021, fly via Dubai and land at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday, 1 February 2021 at a time to be confirmed closer to the day. We will afford the media an opportunity to document this historic occasion, albeit limited access due to the regulations of the Disaster Management Act. Our communicators will relay the details of the welcoming ceremony in due course.

 

After the arrival of the vaccines they will undergo some technical processes of quarantine, quality assurance and reconciliation that are necessary for the safe distribution of the vaccine. These processes will take a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of 14 days to complete, upon which we will be ready to distribute the vaccines to all provinces.

The National Vaccination Campaign is a government led initiative, necessarily supported by other sectors such as civil society, unions and the private sector. The framework that will be presented tonight has received support from these and various other players to ensure that we achieve our goal of herd immunity by the end of the year.

As a government led initiative, Treasury has put its full weight and support behind the programme and I must take this opportunity to thank the Minister of Finance and Treasury officials, in particular the Chief Procurement Officer, for the close working relationship that has defined the processes of procuring vaccines. They have ensured that there are no undue delays, have granted us the deviations we have requested and committed to financing additional orders. Just this afternoon Treasury met in a three- a side with the Department of Health and business- this type of multi-sectoral collaboration has borne the fruit we need to fuel our ambitious programme.

As we announced in the statement of 22 January 2021, the Department of Health made a direct application to SAHPRA for Section 21 Authorisation to supply the SII/ Astra Zeneca vaccine- this approval has been granted and we do have the CEO of SAHPRA, Dr. Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela, here to take us through that authorization and how it will translate on the ground, as well as the processes envisaged for authorization of the other candidates that will be used in the country.

Another regulatory hurdle we had to manage was the GMO regulations under the Department of Agriculture that need to be adhered to for the importation of organic goods derived from genetic modification. It gives us pleasure to confirm that the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has signed regulations to waive the 30 day consultation period so that the urgency of the vaccine rollout can be accommodated.

We are therefore pleased that from a regulatory standpoint we are cleared to move ahead with the rollout of the mass inoculation campaign

Today, I am joined by senior officials from the Department of Health, whom we will invite shortly, to take us through the details of phase one inoculation. I am also very grateful to be joined by representatives from the private sector, professional bodies, community pharmacy, business, and health care funders as this is a culmination of many months of engagements, hard work and co-operation across the sectors to ensure that we have a co-ordinated and well capacitated vaccination programme. I thank all these esteemed colleagues for joining us tonight and we look forward to their critical contributions.

To conclude, it must be acknowledged that, as a country, for us to expect our first consignment of vaccines less than a year after the first case of COVID-19 was recorded is a massive achievement of unprecedented proportions and this is thanks to the co-ordinated and focused efforts of the international scientific community, researchers, clinicians and experts. However, today, I want to pay special tribute to those intrepid compatriots who volunteered to participate in the trials, doing so without knowing whether they are getting the vaccine or a placebo. Let us not forget these heroes who defied all anxieties and chose to be of service for the greater cause. It is only through human trials that we can truly establish the safety and efficacy of a vaccine- they were those humans. We thank them for their noble contribution which has brought us to where we are today.

Without much further ado let us get into the business of the webinar and I will hand back to Dr Manzi to introduce the first speaker for today.