South Africa is still on track to vaccinate at least 45 million people residing in the country, says Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize.

In a statement on Monday, Mkhize said the first 1.1 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccines are ready for dispatch from the Gqeberha plant.

Aspen Pharmacare collaborated with J&J to establish the capacity required for the manufacturing of the vaccine at the company’s sterile facility for the domestic and export markets in the Eastern Cape.

“These vaccines will be flown from the plant in Gqeberha, where the final steps of manufacturing – fill and finish – were completed,” said Mkhize.

He said these vials will land at OR Tambo International Airport on the same day and get transported to the central storage warehouse.

“Once quality assurance processes are completed with the South African National Control Laboratory, then the vaccines will be dispatched to the various provinces where they will be stored at over 900 distribution sites across the country.”

Furthermore, Mkhize said the country is expecting over 650 000 doses of Pfizer before 17 May, when the second phase of the vaccination rollout is expected to begin.

Service providers

The Minister has since congratulated the service providers that have been appointed to execute the transporting, warehousing and distribution services for COVID-19 vaccines for the period of 1 April 2021 to 31 December 2022.

These include DSV Healthcare, Imperial Logistics and BIOVAC.

“We entrust, arguably, our most valuable assets to these companies and we wish them well as they embark on this auspicious national duty,” said Mkhize.

Vaccination centres 

Cabinet has announced that more than 3 338 vaccination sites have been identified by provinces, of which 2 369 are now registered on the Master’s Facility List and are undergoing various stages of approval.

“The provinces will continue to identify more sites as and when sites are activated,” said Mkhize.

He has assured government that it has secured all the vaccines needed.

Mkhize commended the collaboration between the public and private sectors, as well as business.

“It has been a difficult start for our country with the vaccination rollout. However, despite all the challenges we have faced, we still have a positive outlook both for the recovery of public health and the economy at large.”

Upsurge 

Mkhize noted the upsurge of infections in the Northern Cape, Free State and the North West.

He urged citizens to wear masks and avoid crowded situations like parties, funerals and other gatherings.

“It is very difficult but we must continue to do our best to avoid a third wave and harsher restrictions.

“We seriously condemn some posts we have seen on social media depicting large parties, and where youngsters make a mockery of super spreader events and even boasting to host some of their own.”

He warned youngsters that while they may escape relatively unharmed by COVID-19, they could pass the virus to their parents, teachers, grandparents or peers with comorbidities, causing them to become seriously ill or die.

“Nobody wants to be responsible for that and so we must all continue to be considerate of one another and remain disciplined during this very difficult time.”

Meanwhile, he said nearly 500 000 citizens 60 years and older have registered on the Electronic Vaccination Data System

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