Of 11 Covid vaccines, SA wants one that is affordable and effective, says Mkhize

29 December 2020 - 14:11 By Amanda Khoza
A medical worker holds a vial containing fives doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Florence, Italy. SA is looking at 11 different vaccines to curb the spread of Covid-19.
A medical worker holds a vial containing fives doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Florence, Italy. SA is looking at 11 different vaccines to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Image: REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

SA is still weighing its options when it comes to procuring a vaccine to help the country curb the rapid spread of Covid-19, health minister Zweli Mkhize said on Tuesday.

Mkhize was briefing the media a day after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced he was placing the country on alert level 3 with immediate effect following recommendations made by the national coronavirus command council (NCCC), the president’s co-ordinating council (PCC) and the cabinet.

Ramaphosa previously announced that SA was part of the global pooled procurement initiative co-ordinated by the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, commonly known as Covax.

During his address on Monday night, Ramaphosa confirmed the government had signed off on the agreement with Covax and the Solidarity Fund had made the initial payment of R283m to the facility.

“We are part of the first group of countries that will receive an allocation of vaccines from Covax. We have been advised we should expect the vaccines in the second quarter of 2021,” said Ramaphosa.

Mkhize said: “We have about 11 vaccines which are being processed by different countries and are being considered.

“They are all being evaluated in the same way. We believe those that have the results out and have shown finality in terms of the efficacy report are those which will be standardised because it is the same science across the different countries.

“Once those are finalised, it becomes important to say they could also be accessible to us if we decide to take them.

“What we are looking at is which vaccine has good efficacy, is available and affordable,” said the minister.

“You might find a vaccine is cheap, is easy to administer and affordable but not available yet. And that goes to the back of the queue.

“You find one that might be expensive with different logistical issues, but you might want to procure this vaccine because it is the only one available.

“Some say there are orders we have to satisfy and we can't give you the vaccine you are looking for. Then you go for the next best available in terms of preference and cost, logistics and other issues.”

On the issue of personal protective equipment (PPE), Mkhize said: “We have made huge efforts to secure PPE for all our health-care workers. Every facility must discuss at facility level if there are challenges with the availability of PPE.”

Mkhize said the availability of PPE was currently beyond 87%. He said this number covers facilities that have already been audited.

“We have an agreement with the unions that they must have a password for stock that will help detect the movement of PPE from suppliers to storage to a particular facility, so they are able to intervene if there is need for intervention.”

He said the protection of health workers regarding availability, quality and quantity of PPE was of the utmost importance.

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