The Department of Health has come under fire from some opposition parties in Parliament who accuse it of acting improperly by claiming it is rolling out the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, when it is merely part of a study.

Earlier on Friday, Deputy Health Minister, Joe Phaahla, told the Parliamentary Committee on Health that the J&J vaccine is being administered as part of an expanded trial as it is yet to be registered in South Africa.

This enraged some MPs, who accused the department of acting unethically and lying to the public.

The deputy Minister is, however, adamant that they have done nothing wrong and have in fact kept everyone informed of what is happening.

He says the application for approval has now been submitted.

Phaahla says they chose to use the J&J vaccine because it has proven to be effective and safe in South African conditions.

“If indeed there are members who are convinced that Department of Health, J&J and South African medical research council are conducting an illegal business, they have all the right to approach the various ,you know, legal authorities of the country to challenge that. Then I’m very confident that it will not be found to have violated any law and any ethical conduct.”

Linda-Gail Bekker on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine rollout in SA:

‘Vaccinations to increase’

Government has set itself a target of vaccinating 1.5 million people by the end of March.

MPs, however, questioned whether this was possible as only 91 000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated so far.

The Department of Health says it expects the rate of vaccinations to increase as more doses of vaccines from various manufacturers are acquired.

Department of Health Director-General, Sandile Buthelezi, says they have signed agreements with several manufacturers and are also in discussions with others.

Buthelezi has also explained why South Africa has paid twice what European countries paid for the Astra Zeneca vaccination.

“They paid a lot of money in the research and development of the vaccines, including the AstraZeneca. Basically, that means they paid part of the vaccine up upfront. They paid that at risk when they paid that money. There is no way that in South Africa, we would have put in money into a vaccine that we were not even sure that it was going to be successful. But because they took that risk then they started to reap the rewards by paying less money per dose of the vaccine.”

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare workers: