President Cyril Ramaphosa and Deputy President David Mabuza will receive the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine that is expected to land in South Africa on Monday.

The first shipment of India-made COVID-19 vaccines is en route to South Africa as the countdown to their arrival in South Africa is in full swing.

South Africa has been the worst hit on the African continent and has reported the most cases so far.

The country has seen a big surge in infections in January driven by a new, more contagious variant of the virus called 501Y.V2.

However, tens of thousands of the tiny, life-saving vials are finally on their way to South Africa.

On Sunday, at 10 am local time, the first 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine flew out of Mumbai in western India on an Emirates flight, in presence of Consul-General Andrea Kühn, the Consulate team and Indian counterparts.

After a brief pitstop in Dubai, the vaccines are on their way to Johannesburg where they are expected to arrive by Monday.

According to a statement released by the Presidency on Sunday evening, Ramaphosa and Mabuza will be joined by Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize, Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, High Commissioner of the Republic of India His Excellency Jaideep Sarkar and Dr Morena Makhoana, Chief Executive Officer of Biovac.

“High Commissioner Sarkar will represent India as the country of origin of the first vaccine to be rolled out in South Africa. The Serum Institute of India has been licensed to produce a vaccine that has been developed by the multinational pharmaceutical and bio pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, in collaboration with the University of Oxford,” reads the statement.

The arrival of the first consignment at OR Tambo International Airport marks the start of the vaccine rollout which President Ramaphosa describes as the largest and most complex logistical vaccine undertaking in South Africa’s country’s history, says the Presidency.

In this video below, South Africa awaits first batch of COVID-19 vaccine from India:

This will be the first shipment of COVID-19 to arrive in South Africa. The country plans to start administering the vaccine a week after the vaccine arrives.

In the latter half of February, another 500 000 doses will be flown out of India and even after that, India has promised to help partner nations like South Africa.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says, “We are committed to not just saving the lives of our citizens, but also of citizens of other nations. Right now, we are exporting two made-in-India vaccines but in the months ahead, there will be more. This will allow us to help other nations and send more doses to them quickly.”

South Africa has bought these vaccines from the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume. The firm is bulk producing the Oxford AstraZeneca shot in India.

Reports suggest that South Africa paid upwards of five dollars per dose, because the country has been categorised as an upper-middle income nation.

COVAX vaccine

Apart from the commercial sale of the Oxford AstraZeneca shot to South Africa, India plans to supply 10 million vaccine doses to the African continent under the WHO-backed COVAX vaccine sharing facility.

South Africa is eventually expected to get around 12 million doses under that program. The first shots of the vaccine will be given to the country’s frontline workers.

The country plans to vaccinate roughly two-thirds of its population – a move expected to cost $1.4 billion.

Experts say that as a vaccine powerhouse, India makes 60% of the world’s vaccines and it has a responsibility to help nations who are struggling to inoculate their citizens.

Strategic Affairs Expert, Harsh Pant says, “Certainly, India is hoping that those who can afford will enter into commercial agreements, wherever India will give aid. But that is only possible if everyone plays ball. So, India is hoping this becomes an inflection point with the world recognising India’s role and that this becomes a reality in terms of what global governance looks like.”

South Africans eagerly await COVID-19 vaccine arrival:

Vaccination in India

India allowed commercial exports of the vaccine a week after starting its own COVID-19 vaccination. The country has inoculated three million people so far.

It aims to eventually vaccinate 300 million people by August 2021 as part of the first phase of the largest vaccination drive, globally.

Prime Minister Modi’s government says while prioritising domestic requirements, India will ensure regular vaccine supplies to partner nations like South Africa in the coming months.

With the threat of COVID-19 nowhere near over, a robust and equitable bilateral health partnership may just come to define India-South Africa ties.