At the beginning of January, Health Minster Dr Zweli Mkhize, confirmed that South Africa would be receiving its much-needed first batch of COVID-19 vaccine at the start of February. That day is upon us and the National Department of Health (NDoH) indeed confirms that the first batch is expected to land at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg later today.
The Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII) left the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai on Sunday, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Vaccines explained at the weekend.
This first batch, which is part of 1.2 million that the country has initially secured, will be prioritised for frontline healthcare workers.
Thereafter, teachers, police, municipal workers and other frontline personnel will be vaccinated as part of phase two, with those within the general population that are at higher risk of infection and complications from the coronavirus also being earmarked. The third phase will see the rest of the population receive the COVID-19 vaccine, with 16 million outlined in this stage of the rollout, and the ultimate goal of 40 million viewed as achieving the desired population immunity.
This first batch will be accepted by a large collection of government officials, with the President and Deputy President being joined by Mkhize, Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, High Commissioner of the Republic of India, Jaideep Sarkar and CEO of Biovac, Dr Morena Makhoana.
For those unfamiliar with Biovac, it has founded in 2003 in a joint venture with government in order to handle the country’s vaccine requirements, although the full extent of their role during the COVID-19 pandemic to date has not been outlined. That said, the company will now be playing a crucial part in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout moving forward.
“Biovac will play an important role in the quality assurance, warehousing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. High Commissioner Sarkar will represent India as the country of origin of the first vaccine to be rolled out in South Africa,” Presidency said in a statement..
“The Serum Institute of India has been licensed to produce a vaccine that has been developed by the multinational pharmaceutical and bio pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, in collaboration with the University of Oxford,” it adds.
As the country nears one year under lockdown in its fight against the spread of COVID-19, these vaccines arrive at a critical time for many.