'There will be no wasteful or fruitless expenditure': Zweli Mkhize confirms AstraZeneca vaccines offered to AU

Health minister tells parliament during Sona debate that the country will offer the vaccines to other African countries

16 February 2021 - 17:15 By nonkululeko njilo
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize ahead of the debate on the state of the nation address on Tuesday.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize ahead of the debate on the state of the nation address on Tuesday.

The one million Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines which arrived in SA two weeks ago will be offered to other African states.

This is according to health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, speaking on Tuesday during the debate on the state of the nation address.

'The AstraZeneca doses we purchased have been offered to the AU platform, of which we are part, and the AU will distribute to those countries that have already expressed interest in acquiring the stock. Therefore, please be assured there will be no wasteful or fruitless expenditure,” he said.

TimesLIVE was told after the debate that the ministerial advisory committee was still deliberating on “whether to keep a small consignment for study purposes”.

The vaccines, which were procured from the Serum Institute of India and arrived in SA on February 1 to much fanfare, were found to have limited efficacy against mild and moderate disease caused by the Covid-19 variant that is dominant in SA.

This discovery, Mkhize said on Tuesday, had been disappointing.

“However, we were determined not to be derailed from our commitment to roll out vaccines in February,” he said.

“I also wish to once again put on record that the vaccines have not expired and that the expiry date of the end of April was established through our quality control processes. A wrong impression was created that the vaccines have expired. This is simply not true.”

Mkhize remained mum on the relationship the country would have with the Serum Institute after the finding that the vaccine was expiring earlier than expected.

He also responded to speculation that SA had returned the stock to India, saying this had not happened.

“In regard to the future role of AstraZeneca — and all vaccines, for that matter — we continue to be guided by the ministerial advisory committee and experts, and remain committed to an approach that is led by science and is rational in its implementation.”

While the Covid-19 pandemic had wreaked havoc across the world, Mkhize said governments had to take tough decisions. All other measures had been exhausted, so hopes were now on the vaccines.

“Across the world, governments have been in the invidious position of having to balance the mitigation measures that save lives with concessionary measures to save livelihoods.

“Our hope now lies in an effective vaccination campaign that will achieve population immunity across the world, for it will be useless if one country achieves immunity while others are left behind.”


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