President Cyril Ramaphosa and Deputy President David Mabuza, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Vaccines have officially received South Africa’s first consignment of the COVID-19 vaccine at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday afternoon (February 1).
The first shipment of one million doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII) left the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai on Sunday.
The President and Deputy President were joined by Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize; Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni; High Commissioner of the Republic of India, Jaideep Sarkar, and Chief Executive Officer of Biovac, Dr Morena Makhoana.
Biovac is a bio-pharmaceutical company that was formed in 2003 in a partnership with government and private investors to establish local vaccine manufacturing capability.
“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.
“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,” the Presidency said in a statement.
The Presidency said the arrival of the first consignment at OR Tambo Airport in the late afternoon, marks the start of the vaccine rollout, which President Ramaphosa has described as the largest and most complex logistical vaccine undertaking in South Africa’s history.
“The scale of delivery is unprecedented in terms of the number of people who have to be reached within a short space of time. The aim of the vaccination programme is to achieve immunity across the population,” the Presidency said.
Government is coordinating the vaccine programme through the committee chaired by the Deputy President, which is focused on procurement, distribution, actual vaccination, monitoring, communication and mobilisation.
The first phase of the rollout programme will prioritise around 1.2 million frontline health workers.
Phase 2 will prioritise essential workers including teachers, police, municipal workers and other frontline personnel.
People in institutions like old age homes, shelters and prisons, people over 60 years of age and adults with co-morbidities, will also be prioritised in phase 2, with a total number of around 16 million people intended to be reached.
With increased manufacturer supplies, government will in phase 3 vaccinate the remaining adult population of approximately 22.5 million people, and will then have reached around 40 million South Africans, which is considered to approximate herd immunity.
Monday’s proceedings will be brief, with dignitaries witnessing airline, airport, health, customs and security personnel perform their duties of ensuring that the vaccine consignment is “cleared and securely transported to its cold-room destination”.