After a long and arduous wait, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize revealed, at an inoculation webinar held on Wednesday evening, that the first batch of AstraZeneca — or Covishield — vaccine doses will make landfall at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday 1 February 2021.
SA gets first batch of AstraZeneca vaccine doses
Mkhize told the media that a number of security checks and logistical processes had to be thoroughly scrutinised before the Serum Institute of India (SII) could greenlight the shipment of the vaccine doses.
The flight carrying one million doses will land at the OR Tambo Airport on Monday but this doesn’t mean that the doses will be distributed immediately afterwards.
How will these doses be distributed?
Certain precautionary checks and balances need to be made before the health department can approve the nationwide distribution of the Covishield vaccine.
The minister revealed that it will take between 10 to 14 days to conduct reconciliation checks, search for doses that have been tampered with or ones that suffered breakage during transportation.
“These are all necessary for the safe distribution of the vaccine. These processes will take a minimum of 10 days and maximum of 14 days,” he said.
Once all checks and balances have been cleared, the health department, working with other sectors of government, will distribute the vaccine using three platforms:
- Work-based vaccination program
- This will target healthcare workers from district-level public and private hospitals
- Outreach work-based vaccination program
- Mobile teams will move from facility to facility, inoculating workers from primary healthcare, community healthcare and private medical centres.
- Vaccination centres: Remote or facility-based
- Independent healthcare workers will be encouraged to get inoculated at vaccination centres (community pharmacies).
When are the rest coming?
While the arrival of one million doses is a start for South Africa, there is still quite a long way to go in achieving herd immunity. This particular vaccine requires two doses per candidate.
Therefore, the first batch may only service 500 000 of the 1.25 million phase one candidates earmarked by the government. That is on the condition that the entire batch was safely transported without breakage.
There are still 500 000 doses expected from the SII which could arrive in February. Mkhize has vowed to keep SA in the loop on further developments.