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People set to get Pfizer jab in SA increased by five million: here's what you need to know

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said the number of people who will be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine increased from 10 million to 15 million.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize said the number of people who will be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine increased from 10 million to 15 million.
Image: Alon Skuy

The number of people to be vaccinated in SA with Pfizer BioNTech's double-shot vaccines has increased from 10 to 15 million.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize announced that SA had secured an additional 10 million Covid-19 Pfizer vaccines this week.

Speaking in parliament, Mkhize told the health portfolio committee the addition will increase the total amount of the vaccine in SA to 30 million shots.

Here is what you need to know.

More than 300,000 shots to arrive in May

Mkhize said the first batch of 325,260 shots is expected to arrive in the country on May 3, while the rest will be delivered weekly until May 24.

Mkhize said the vaccine, which costs $10 (about R143) per vaccine, has non-refundable clauses.

“This, therefore, means we can now guarantee that the number of people who will be vaccinated with Pfizer increases from 10 million to 15 million,” said Mkhize.

The first of 20 million vaccines to be delivered in 14 days

Last week, Mkhize said the first of 20 million Pfizer vaccines were set to be delivered “in the next 14 days”. 

He said the country was still concluding payment for the vaccine deal.

“Upon conclusion, Pfizer will be in a position to break down their current quarterly commitments to a finer schedule, with a committed date for the delivery of the first batch,” he said.

“We, therefore, expect to receive the supply schedule early next week. This will be the detail of how the vaccine will come. We expect within 14 days, we should be able to get the [first] delivery, provided there are no unforeseen glitches in the payment process.”

20 million J & J vaccines not yet signed off

Mkhize said the government received an e-mail from Johnson & Johnson (J&J), saying it will not sign off on its 20 million single-shot doses until trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel acknowledges its investment in local manufacturer, Aspen Pharmacare in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth).

Mkhize said the vaccine deal with J & J also has a non-refund clause, meaning down payments will not be returned under any circumstances.

“We’ve been taken aback by this, as there are clauses in the agreement which express this support [for the Gqeberha facility] and acknowledge this production will not just be limited to SA and the continent, but also targeted for the global market,” said Mkhize.

J&J blood clots

On Tuesday, Mkhize said the J&J vaccine rollout was “provisionally” suspended in SA after an investigation of a possible link between the vaccine and a rare type of blood clot in the brain.

The suspension came after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) paused the use of the vaccination pending a review of a possible link to a rare type of blood clot in the brain reported in six women in the US coupled with low levels of platelets.

The incidents occurred between six and 13 days after vaccination in women between the ages of 18 and 48 years.

Mkhize said after the FDA issued its advisory, he held urgent consultations with scientists and they had advised that the decision by the FDA should not be taken lightly, despite no cases of blood clots reported in SA.

“Based on their advice, we have determined to voluntarily suspend our rollout until the causal relationship between the development of clots and the J&J vaccine is sufficiently interrogated,” he said.