Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has confirmed they have secured 51 million doses of vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in the battle against Covid-19.
Mkhize also said the country has also received a refund from the Serum Institute for 500 000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses.
Mkhize and Gauteng Premier David Makhura briefed the media on Thursday after visiting vaccination sites at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital.
Mkhize started the briefing by apologising for the difficulty in disseminating new information about vaccines in the last few weeks, saying this was due to no new information being available and the nature of non-disclosure agreements.
“The country will receive an initial batch of over 1 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines before the end of April. This will be followed by 900 000 in May and another 900 000 in June. The country has secured 31 million doses of the one-dose vaccine,” said Mkhize.
He said the protection of healthcare workers was paramount
“On 1 February, we received 1 million of 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, these doses would have been enough to administer the first dose of vaccine to all our healthcare workers. However, the variant frustrated our noble goals and we had to make a contingency plan, through the Sisonke Protocol, to ensure that there was some protection for you.”
Mkhize said circumstances beyond their control have caused an initial delay in the roll-out of vaccines.
“Your protection is absolutely paramount and we continue to fight everyday to accelerate towards our targets and ensure that we complete phase one within the time frame we committed to.
“We have managed to salvage the AstraZeneca situation: The 1 million doses we had received were sold to the African Union and distributed to many African countries who have now been able to access vaccines through this process.
“Today, I am pleased to announce that our Finance Department has confirmed that the Serum Institute of India has fully refunded us for the remaining 500 000 doses that had not yet been delivered and the funds are in our bank account,” said Mkhize.
He said this refund closes the matter, without incurring fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
“We have now secured a combined 51 million doses of vaccines; 31 million from J&J’s one dose vaccine and 20 million from Pfizer’s two dose vaccine.
“This means we can now move ahead with confidence as we finalise the plans for our mass roll-out campaign, which is officially due to begin at the conclusion of phase one on 17 May 2021.
“On 6 April we announced that we expected the final tranche of 200 000 Sisonke Protocol doses from J&J this weekend, which would take us to the conclusion of this protocol.
“We have learnt this morning that, due to unavailability of direct flights, we now expect this final batch to arrive early next week. This will not derail us from meeting our targets.
“We must continue to encourage and commend Professor Glenda Gray and her team at the Medical Research Council along with all the department leadership and workforce that has ensured the success of this seminal initiative,” said Mkhize.