Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Tuesday that 80 000 Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines are en route to South Africa and will be used in this week’s roll-out of government’s national vaccination programme.
Another 500 000 doses are expected over the next four weeks.
Mkhize revealed that government had secured a total of 9-million doses of the J&J vaccine and 20-million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which are expected in the country at the end of March.
The AstraZeneca shot, which was put on hold by government following poor results against the 501Y.V2 variant, also known as the South African Covid-19 variant, has been offered to the African Union for distribution to other countries.
“The recent announcement around the limited efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which we had already procured, was certainly disappointing, however, we were determined not to be derailed from our commitment to roll out vaccines in February,” Mkhize said.
He also dismissed claims that the vaccines had expired, explaining that the expiry date of April 31 was established through government’s quality control processes.
Meanwhile, government is also engaging with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers and suppliers, following calls by the public for South Africa to develop and manufacture its own vaccines.
Mkhize added that government would continue to be the sole buyer of vaccines for the country.
He lauded South African scientists for their discovery of the 501Y.V2 variant and for guiding pharmaceutical companies in their adaption of vaccines against emerging variants.
“As a matter of fact, we are one of very few countries that is so precise in its vaccination approach by implementing the guidance from the genomics surveillance expertise,” Mkhize said.
He said South Africa’s risk-adjusted response to the pandemic and differentiated approach to hotpots had been lessons for other countries who have now adopted the same approach.
“We were lauded for our community screening and testing campaign, which not only allowed us to identify high transmission and low transmission areas in our communities, but also allowed us to directly communicate with our community members,” he added.