Health department awaits vaccine delivery confirmation from Pfizer-BioNTech

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The Department of Health is awaiting confirmation from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine producers on the date in which South Africa will receive its first batch of the Pfizer jab, says Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

According to the National Institute For Communicable Diseases Of South Africa (NICD), Pfizer has committed 20 million vaccine doses which are expected to start being delivered from the second quarter of 2021.

Mkhize says, “We haven’t got a concrete date from Pfizer, but we are expecting that they will give us about 5.5 million for the quarter 2, which is from April to June. There will be an additional 1.25 million from the COVAX facility.”

The Health Department is continuing to vaccinate healthcare workers across the country with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Over 230 000 people, mainly frontline health workers, have been vaccinated so far with the government planning to vaccinate 40 million people, or two-thirds of the population, in its overall vaccination programme.

Mkhize says further Johnson and Johnson consignments are expected to arrive in the second quarter of 2021.

He says, “We are expecting a million vaccines will come from Johnson and Johnson by April… the numbers will start increasing beyond that from July onwards…”

The NICD says Johnson and Johnson has contracted Aspen to manufacture the vaccines in South Africa and will be delivering more vaccine doses in the second quarter of 2021.

EXPLAINER South Africa’s vaccine rollout strategy:

On Tuesday, Mkhize said he was confident that the rollout of the country’s vaccine programme was still on track,  despite the department not meeting its target of vaccinating 1.5 million health workers by the end of April.

Mkhize appeared before Parliament’s Health Committee to give a two weekly briefing on the progress of the country’s COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Currently, a target of having 600 000 health workers vaccinated by the end of May, has been set.

Mkhize says this is still in line with the first of a three-phase rollout plan.

“Although we could’ve done more by now, we are still not past three months allocated for the first phase. [The] First phase allocated that because we know vaccines limited in the first quarter and that was the reason we gave it three months. Starting from February to the other end of April if you look at the dates,” he says.

Minister Mkhize’s update on the J&J clinical trials and rollout: