Some good news! SA to produce 17 million Covid-19 vaccines in next three months
As SA entered week three of at least four weeks of alert level 4 lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa said one of the country’s top challenges in expanding vaccine rollout was the availability of doses.
Ramaphosa said this was to be addressed by a historic agreement that will see SA producing 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single shot vaccine — under licence rather than contract — for SA and other countries in Africa.
“In the last few days, the African Union, through our office as the AU Covid-19 champion, and the European Union have reached a historic agreement that will significantly improve the supply of vaccines to our country and our sister countries on the African continent,” Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation on Sunday evening.
This meant pharmaceutical giant Aspen will deliver more than 17 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses to SA and other African countries within three months, as from later this month.
After this, Ramaphosa said the number will then double every month from October. He added that in order to strengthen health security on the continent, Johnson & Johnson had agreed to adapt the current arrangement in which SA is producing the vaccine under contract, to a situation in which production is rather done under licence.
The pace of vaccination has more than doubled in the last month, and will continue to increase. Presently, nearly 190,000 people are on average being vaccinated each weekday.
This will result “in our country and the continent having control over the vaccines”, he said, explaining that over time this would lead to “a fully-owned African vaccine manufactured on African soil in a number of countries on our continent”.
He said US president Joe Biden’s offer to donate a further 15 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Africa through the Covax facility was welcomed.
The vaccine developments were necessary because more than 4,200 South Africans had died of Covid-19 in the past two weeks, with Gauteng accounting for more than half of new infections, with numbers rapidly rising in the Western Cape, Limpopo, North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
He said the national vaccination programme was expanding at a rapid pace. So far more than 4.2 million people have been vaccinated — a million of them in the past week.
“The pace of vaccination has more than doubled in the last month, and will continue to increase. Presently, nearly 190,000 people are on average being vaccinated each weekday,” Ramaphosa said.
As from Thursday, those over the age of 35 will be able to register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System, with plans to expand vaccine site operations to six or seven days a week.
“I want to encourage all South Africans who are eligible to register to do so and get their vaccine. We need to spread the message that vaccines work and that they are effective,” said the president, adding that the new developments together meant that SA should soon have a range of vaccines and “a pipeline of vaccine supplies sufficient to meet our vaccination target”.
“We welcome the decision by Sahpra to approve the CoronaVac vaccine from China for use in South Africa. The Vaccine Advisory Committee is working on how soon we can bring CoronaVac into the vaccination programme.”