10 February 2021
At an early morning press briefing on February 10 by the Department of Health in South Africa, Minister Zweli Mkhize set the record straight with regards to inoculation and vaccinations against the Covid-19 virus. The vaccine produced under licence from Oxford University in England and AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company by the Serum Institute of India (SII) is not as effective when tested on the mutation and variants of the virus found in South Africa, explained Mkhize. The order for the vaccine was made before the new variant was discovered in South Africa. Due to the global demand for the vaccine, the South African government had to act timeously to secure a vaccine during this unprecedented pandemic. The vaccines expiration date is April 30, 2021 and the department is negotiating a swop of the vaccine or selling it off to another country and is even in talks with the WHO about what can be done.
As the South African government plans to inoculate healthcare workers using the Johnson and Johnson vaccination, India and the SII were acknowledged for their safe and advanced vaccine manufacturing capacity. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine was found to have a higher efficacy and upon approval for local use, will be administered to frontline workers as early as next week. This vaccine has shown that it has a 57% efficacy against the 501Y.V2 variant for the prevention of mild and moderate Covid-19 and 85% for the prevention of severe Covid-19 hospitalisation and death. The J&J vaccine will be filled and finished in South Africa, while government has secured more doses of the Pfizer vaccine and are also evaluating the Sputnik-V, Moderna and Sinopharm vaccines.
Mhkize explained that the provinces, which will be the point of inoculation, have submitted their plans and procedures. Logistics of transportation, storage, locations and allocations were included in the frameworks. Teething problems that will arise when the process begins will be identified, adjusted and resolved as the roll out continues.
South Africa was the first country in the world to acknowledge the identification of a new variant of the Covid-19 virus named the 501Y.V2 in December 2020. New variants were most probably circulating in other countries, but South Africa’s Heath Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize was the first to announce a mutation of the virus to the world. This was an important discovery by South Africa as questions immediately arose about the efficacy of the already developing vaccines against this and other variants found. The scientific data presented indicated the knowledge and capacity of the South African scientists in understanding the disease. Motivated by this knowledge, expertise and capabilities, the South African government authorities are preparing to manufacture vaccines in South Africa.