Deputy Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla says manufacturers are the ones choosing to work directly with government in the COVID-19 vaccine purchase process.

Dr Phaahla, together with Deputy President David Mabuza in his capacity as the chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on COVID-19 vaccines, visited the Biovac Institute in Johannesburg.

COVID-19 vaccines to be stored at Biovac facility:

The facility is a Public-Private Partnership between the government and Biovac Consortium whose focus is on ensuring the country’s capacity to respond to both local and regional vaccine needs. This comes as AfriForum and trade union Solidarity called on government to allow the private sector to purchase and distribute coronavirus vaccines.

The groups recently approached the High Court to force government to give clarity on the legality of the state’s centralisation of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Speaking to journalists after touring the facility, Dr Phaahla said government has not prevented the private sector from purchasing the vaccines.

“I don’t know where this matter arises because whether you go to the UK it’s the UK government which buys from AstraZeneca from Pfizer, it’s just the manufacturers themselves that are comfortable with that arrangement.”

Mabuza says government is working on improving South Africa’s capability to produce coronavirus vaccines. He was visiting the Biovac Institute in Midrand where the coronavirus vaccines are being kept.

The visit follows a decision by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on COVID-19 vaccines to visit various sites established for the purpose of vaccine rollout.

Speaking to reporters outside the facility, Mabuza says Biovac will focus on ensuring that the country has the required domestic capacity to respond to vaccine needs.

“The J & J vaccine that we are administering now we store it here, from here we distribute it to the various centres. The cold chain can be broken for some days that won’t alter the quality of the vaccine but it cannot go beyond certain days. This is the capability that we have as a country, which cabinet made a decision to improve this capability for us manufacturing our own vaccines.”