The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, have assured South Africans that the contaminated COVID vaccine doses will not be released in the country.

This comes after it emerged that some batches awaiting to be distributed from the Gqeberha Aspen plant in the Eastern Cape had been contaminated.  

SAHPRA has pleaded with South Africans not to panic as there are emergency plans in place to deal with any crisis, that emerges in the country.  

SAHPRA has confirmed that 300 000 doses that have been approved by the US Food & Drug Administration, will be released for shipment to SA. The product regulator says it’s unclear when the doses will be shipped to the country. They have also indicated that they are unsure whether Aspen will be reimbursed for the millions they have spent on the manufacturing of the doses, that will go unused.  

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will now be stored for four and half months instead of three months, at a temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.  

Kubayi-Ngubane has assured that quality and safety of all COVID-19 vaccines will not be compromised.

“Based on what has been announced by the FDA we are affected in terms of those batches there at Gqeberha site and what we have there on site is 2 million. I think some people were almost thinking that these are the batches that would have vaccinated South African citizens with these batches that are contaminated. I need to reiterate that is not correct. These batches have not been used. So I think South Africans citizens should not panic and what we will receive and use, would be approved.”

SAHPRA CEO, Dr Boitumelo Semete says the batches in question will not be released.

“The batches that at the Aspen sites that have been finished. The ones that were in question, those will not be released. They cannot be made available to the public. However, these are doses from the factory that have been cleared that will be made available. We will make sure that the country gets the correct batches of vaccine.”

Dr Semete continued to say that the contaminated doses will have a negative impact on government’s vaccination roll out plan. 

It has impacted the vaccine rollout and plans of the country. These are doses expected to be made available. The public must have confidence as regulator. We will ensure that any product that is not of the right quality, its not made available in the country. There is level of confidence for the public to have but it does affect our roll out strategy.”

South Africa recorded over 9 000 COVID-19 cases on Saturday, with the number of deaths increasing to over 57 700. 

Latest SA COVID-19 stats:

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Kubayi- Ngubane says she is also concerned that the COVID-19 vaccination programme is progressing slower than anticipated. Speaking in an interview with the SABC, Kubayi- Ngubane said government was working hard to increase the number of vaccinations per day but that a shortage of vaccines is hampering efforts.

Kubayi-Ngubane says she hopes the number of daily vaccinations will increase significantly over the next few weeks.

“The initial target for us is to increase the numbers in terms of vaccinations per day. So we are reconciling the figures to ensure that between private and public we can account fully. Others are giving us the amount 165 000 per day across the country both in terms of public and private. We want to push that to almost 250 000 because we think the system can be able to push to that. We will look at where the glitches are. The reporting and allocation are very important as we split.”