The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set the shelf life of the Pfizer vaccine at nine months if stored at between -60°C and -90°C. Last month, the FDA extended the shelf life of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine to 11 months if stored at 2°C-8°C.
Phaahla said the department is sending out consistent messaging through multiple media channels about the importance of vaccination, and collaborating with community leaders at ward level.
Dialogues and activations were being arranged in communities and the department was providing technical assistance for localised communications that promote uptake, he said.
Efforts were being made among vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations such as the youth, undocumented people and people living with HIV through community engagement strategies.
The poor uptake, however, has persisted, and is reflected by the threatened closure of the Aspen Pharmacare vaccination production line in Gqeberha.
Late in 2020, Aspen made a deal with J&J that it would undertake formulation, filling and secondary packaging of the vaccine at its Eastern Cape plant. The company had no say at the time over where the final products went, and no sway over supplying enough doses for Africa.
But late last year a new deal allowed Aspen to make its own clone of J&J. It was heralded as a new era in which Africa would no longer be relying on Western powers in a context of vaccine inequity.
Aspen's senior executive for strategic trade development, Stavros Nicolaou, said at the time: “In parallel to contract manufacturing, we are gearing up for our own clone of the J&J vaccine. We will be producing an African vaccine for Africa at our facilities.”
The vaccine was named Aspenovax, and the World Health Organisation called it a “transformative moment” because, of all vaccines administered in Africa (not just for Covid), only 1% are produced on the continent.