Labour union, Nehawu, has raised concerns about the delays in the delivery of procured vaccines by suppliers. The union says the delivery needs to be expedited in order to meet the target of vaccinating members of the public.

Nehawu President, Mzwandile Makwayiba, says they anticipated that by this time, more healthcare workers would have been vaccinated, and the next phase already commenced.

“We were of the view that this time more than one million employees of the state would have been vaccinated and we would have gone to the other category. We are not happy because the third wave seems to be faster in getting with us (sic) and that is going to be a serious knock down when it captures us (sic),” says Makwayiba.

Health authorities have identified the availability and logistical challenges as some as contributory factors for the delays.

North West MEC for Health, Madoda Sambatha, says, “The reason South Africans would have a problem with the pace of vaccination, has to do with the distribution and availability of vaccines in each moment. Therefore, the issue of a problem should not be at the pace of vaccination. It should be at the pace of availability of vaccines.”

Earlier on Thursday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said government has secured agreements for 51 million doses of vaccine doses from pharmaceutical Johnson and Johnson to combat COVID-19. He has also announced that the next batch of vaccine doses from the company is expected to arrive in the country on Monday.  

Mkhize visited the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Parktown accompanied by Gauteng Premier, David Makhura 

He was inspecting some vaccination cites in Gauteng to establish their preparedness for the next phase of the vaccine rollout, which will include the elderly and essential workers.  

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize inspects Gauteng vaccination sites:

Mkhize also revealed that the country has recovered all the money spent on the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines now that they have been sold to other African countries.

Earlier this year it was discovered that the AstaZeneca vaccine was less effective with the 501y.v2 variant initially found in South Africa. Mkhize says, there has been no wasteful expenditure in relation to the vaccine.

“We want to indicate that all the AstraZeneca’s vaccines have been salvaged. One million does that we received, we sold them to the African union. They have been distributed to many African countries. The difference between us and these countries is that they don’t have the same variant. Treasury has confirmed that the Serim Institutes of India has fully refunded us for the remaining 500 000 doses that were not delivered to SA. The money is already is our bank account,” he explained.

More than 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines secured for SA:

More than 270 000 South African healthcare workers have been vaccinated in the country’s phase one of the vaccination programme.

The second phase is expected to begin on the 18th of May and will take up to six months to reach completion. This phase will likely target essential workers and those with co-morbidities. October will see South Africa begin with the third phase of the vaccination roll out, targeting the rest of the population.

Johnson and Johnson is expected to deliver the first batch of more than one-million, single dose vaccines later this month; 900 000 doses will also be delivered in May and June.

Minister Mkhize says South Africa is now almost out of the woods in relation to it’s vaccine procurement.

“We have now secured a combined 51 million doses of vaccine in agreements that have been signed; 31-million from J&J, which is a one dose vaccine and 20 million from Pfizer which is a two-dose vaccine. We have also got a letter indicating that some vaccines will come from the Covax facility. They have spoken about 1.25 million. We can now move ahead with confidence as we move ahead with the next roll out campaign,” he explains.

Government will receive a vaccination schedule from Pfizer next week, which will determine when their vaccines will arrive in the country. Government says it intends introducing an outreach programme to assist people with registration.