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Minister was briefing the media about SA’s vaccination plan

Leaders want to be first to take the jab: 5 takeouts from Zweli Mkhize on SA’s Covid-19 vaccine plan

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said many of the leaders wanted to lead by example and be the first to receive the vaccine to assure the public of its safety.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize said many of the leaders wanted to lead by example and be the first to receive the vaccine to assure the public of its safety.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said there are ongoing discussions about how the Covid-19 vaccine will be administered among the country’s leaders.

He said many want to lead by example and be the first to receive the vaccine to assure the public it is safe.

The minister was briefing the media on Wednesday about SA’s vaccination plan.

Here are five important things you need to know:

Vaccines have not expired

Mkhize said the AstraZeneca vaccines which will be rolled out in SA have not expired. He also dismissed speculation that government will administer expired vaccines.

“The vaccines have not expired. It is important to underline that because when the issue of expiry is raised, some people say the vaccines will be administered to people after the expiry date, and that is not the case.”

Government in talks with Russian manufacturers 

The minister said talks between the government and manufacturers of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine are at an advanced stage. He said they are also considering China’s offer for the Sinopharm vaccine.

“Our scientists are continuing to evaluate other candidates and we are simultaneously engaging manufacturers. We are in advanced stages of evaluating and engaging the manufacturers of the Sputnik V candidate. Engagements with Sinopharm continue, with an offer already made by China for vaccines which are being considered.”

Minister of health Zweli Mkhize hosted a public briefing on February 10 2021 to address the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine's lack of effectiveness against the 501Y.V2 strand of Covid-19. The minister also gave a revised plan of the country's vaccine rollout.

SA will not consider getting a refund for AstraZeneca vaccine 

The minister said he will engage in further discussions with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Covax about the AstraZeneca vaccine procured by SA. The vaccine remains highly recommended globally and will be administered based on expert advice.

“There are some countries asking that we sell it to them. All we can say is that we will not waste money. We will either swap the vaccine and get a different vaccine or a fresh batch. At the moment we wait for the experts to give us advice.”

Leaders keen to be vaccinated

The minister assured South Africans that the Covid-19 vaccine is safe and he would take it.

“I’d really love to take the vaccine. That matter is being discussed on how we deal with leaders taking the vaccine.

“I’ve been approached by leaders who said people are not sure whether the vaccines are safe and they have offered to be vaccinated for people to see they are safe.”

Africa needs to improve its capacity

Mkhize said there are discussions among African leaders to increase the continent’s capacity to manufacture its own vaccines, personal protective equipment and other pharmaceutical products.

“Last year we discovered that the bulk of what we needed was manufactured outside SA and outside the continent. It’s not fair that a continent of more than one billion people can only rely on what is being supplied from the rest of the world and we don’t have our own internal capacity.”

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW | SA's Covid-19 phase 1 vaccine rollout to start next week with J&J shots

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