Biovac to distribute vaccines to SA health-care workers: Treasury letter

21 January 2021 - 11:13 By Reuters
Biovac Institute has been contracted by the government to import, store and distribute coronavirus vaccines for front-line health-care workers. Stock photo.
Biovac Institute has been contracted by the government to import, store and distribute coronavirus vaccines for front-line health-care workers. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Luis Carceller

SA pharmaceutical company Biovac Institute has been contracted by the government to import, store and distribute coronavirus vaccines for front-line health-care workers, a letter from the National Treasury shows.

Health-care experts have urged the government to share a detailed plan on vaccine rollout across the country.

In the letter written by director-general Dondo Mogajane to non-profit organisation Corruption Watch and seen by Reuters, the Treasury has given the department of health approval to deviate from normal procurement processes for the transportation, storage and distribution of the vaccines in the short term.

The National Treasury and spokespeople for the department of health did not respond to requests for comment.

Cape Town-based Biovac, part-owned by the government, has been appointed for three months to provide storage and distribution services for vaccines to immunise front-line health-care workers, the letter showed.

“Biovac will be involved in the importation, cold chain storage and distribution of the 1.5 million doses,” Biovac CEO Morena Makhoana told Reuters.

SA has said it will receive 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 shot from the Serum Institute of India (SII), spread over January and February.

Regarding storage and distribute of vaccines in the medium term — over a period of six months — the letter said the government is approaching Imperial Logistics' health sciences unit, Denmark's DSV Panalpina, pharmacy chain Clicks Group's United Pharmaceutical Distributors (UPD) and Biovac in a closed bidding process.

Asked about this, DSV said it could not comment outside its closed period, Clicks referred questions to the department of health and Imperial was not immediately available for comment.

Mogajane was responding to Corruption Watch's executive director David Lewis, who had written to the Treasury seeking clarity regarding emergency procurement and rollout of vaccines.

Mogajane noted that the auditor-general would be asked at the appropriate time to conduct real-time audits of the vaccine procurement process.

“Corruption Watch is pleased that the auditor-general will be involved in oversight of the use of public money for vaccine procurement,” the non-profit said in a statement on Thursday.


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