Deputy Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla says the government has not prevented the private sector from purchasing coronavirus vaccines, saying it was the manufacturers that chose to work directly with the government in procuring the COVID-19 vaccines.

Phaahla together with the 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 on Tuesday.

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 the government to allow the private sector to purchase and distribute coronavirus vaccines.

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

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

SA’s COVID-19 vaccines to be stored at BioVac Storage facility:

All vaccines procured by the government will be stored at the BioVac Storage facility in Midrand.

Mabuza says the government will not need another storage facility and that Johnson and Johnson vaccine doses have been stored in a refrigerator which accommodates the minus 20 degree celsius temperature required.

Meanwhile, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) says the vaccination of both private and public sector health care workers is crucial in the fight against COVID-19 in the country.

The Council President, Professor Glenda Gray was among speakers at the launch of the first vaccination centre in the private sector at Melomed Hospital in Gatesville in Cape Town. She says a number of health care workers in the private sector have died from the virus.

Gray says, “We have seen a lot of health care workers get hospitalised and die. Making sure that we allocate the correct amount of vaccine for the health care workers in the private sector is critical to make sure we can protect all health care workers before the next third wave. For me its very gratifying to see the collaboration between the private and public sector.”