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First batch of Pfizer vaccines has landed in South Africa

The first shipment of 325 260 doses of Pfizer vaccines arrived at OR Tambo International Airport late on Sunday evening, 2 May, but, as per protocol, before being distributed, the doses will have to undergo quality assurance. 

Nearly 4.5-million doses of Pfizer vaccines are expected to reach the country by the end of June. 

In a statement issued on Sunday, health minister Zweli Mkhize said South Africa was expecting to receive shipments of more than 320 000 Pfizer vaccine doses weekly until the end of May, totalling 1.3-million doses.  

The first vaccine arrival follows after a string of negotiations between the government and Pfizer. The health minister has previously stated that the government found the terms and conditions made by vaccine manufacturers, including Pfizer, “difficult and sometimes unreasonable”.

Despite this, South Africa can expect more Pfizer vaccines to reach its shores. 

“The vaccine supply will increase to an average of 636 480 doses weekly from 31 May which will see us accumulating close to 4.5-million doses by the end of June,” said Mkhize in his Sunday statement. 

The locally manufactured Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine at the Aspen plant in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape, is expected to be ready for distribution by mid-May. According to Mkhize the doses are ready to be dispatched but must first undergo a safety verification process. 

Meanwhile, the Sisonke vaccination programme that aims to vaccinate healthcare workers continues after it was suspended for a second time. According to the latest report 318 670 healthcare workers have received their Covid-19 jab.  

Despite widespread concerns of the slow pace at which Covid-19 vaccines are taking place, the department of health remains confident that all healthcare workers who registered to receive a vaccine will be vaccinated by the end of May. 

Phase two of the vaccination rollout plan, to vaccinate people 60 years and above, is set to start on 17 May. According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, South Africa recorded 1 222 coronavirus infections and 11 deaths in the last 24-hours. On Sunday, 1 584 064 Covid-19 cases had been identified in the country since the start of the outbreak in March 2020, of which less than 22 000 are active.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a junior daily news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She was previously a freelance journalist and a broadcaster at Maroela Media and Smile90.4FM.

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