Deputy Director-General of the Health Department, Dr Anban Pillay, says government expects applications for coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine candidates in the coming weeks.
These include from Pfizer-BioNtech and Astrazeneca which have both proved to be over 90% effective in combating the COVID19-infection. Criticism is mounting against government after it announced that the vaccine would only become available in the second quarter of next year.
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority has said it will prioritise the safety and efficacy of each candidate before approval is granted.
Pillay says, “Pfizer hasn’t filed yet and that’s largely because they don’t have stock that they can supply. I suppose it would make no sense for them to make an application when we will not be able to purchase any stock but they have indicated that they will be filing fairly soon and astrazeneca are preparing to file. So I think in the next few weeks we will probably see filings happen and you may have heard publicly that Johnson and Johnson has provided some information although the clinical trial data has not come out yet but as soon as it does I think they will probably file. I think this next three to four weeks we will probably see a lot of activity on that front.”
Process of getting the COVID-19 vaccine in South Africa:
Meanwhile, Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize has given the assurance that government’s plan to roll out a coronavirus vaccine by April next year is on track. This comes amid criticism from the Democratic Alliance (DA) that the vaccine to be delivered under the COVAX facility will only arrive in the country in the second quarter and not the first quarter of next year is expected.
However, Mkhize says South Africa is considering 11 vaccines that are currently being tested in various countries.
Several countries have already received shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca jabs.
He says government is looking for specific elements in the vaccines.
“What we are looking at is which vaccine has got good efficacy and is available and is it affordable, and if you put all of those factors together, it will be a matter of which one is available. You might find that a particular vaccine is cheap, easy to administer, with easy logistics, and is affordable but it’s not available yet and we want to get some vaccines now. So, that means going to the back of the queue until it’s available.”
Health workers and the vulnerable in society will be among the first to receive a vaccine to combat the coronavirus.
“What we can say to South Africans is that our first target, once we get the vaccines, will be the health workers and the vulnerable groups. When we are ready with all of that information we will make it public. At the moment there is a lot of behind the scenes work and negotiations and we will only announce once we are ready with it,” says the minister.
South Africa records 17 710 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours: