South Africa Secures Covid-19 Vaccines

Saturday, 09 Jan, 2021

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Friday that a decision to authorise the use of the AstraZeneca/Oxford coronavirus vaccine could be made by the end of the month, with the bloc being under pressure to speed out the vaccines rollout.

Kenya has been participating in a small-scale trial of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which requires two doses administered weeks apart. Nobody, including the World Health Organisation and other regulatory authorities, nobody is now recommending its use for treatment or prevention.

That could mean greater access in less wealthy countries.

On Thursday, South Africa's Health Minister Zweli Mkhize noted that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had already been approved in several countries, including the United Kingdom and India.

There are close to 1,000 people enrolled in the vaccine studies which started in the Spring of 2020.

"We urge the public to be patient with us as we continue to engage manufacturers".

Oxford/AstraZeneca transferred the technology to several manufacturers, including those based in Argentina, China, India, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, and Russian Federation. Notwithstanding, the government of India is not a party to this contract manufacturing arrangement.

The first wave of the virus had typically seen South Africa's daily confirmed cases hover around 12,000 back in July.

Mkhize estimated the cost at 20.6 billion rand ($1.36 billion) for the targeted 67% coverage. During a news conference, Anban Pillay, a deputy director at the ministry, detailed how officials had "tried to persuade" USA -based Moderna register its vaccine - already approved in America and the European Union - in South Africa.

Beximco Pharmaceuticals Limited, a private pharmaceutical company registered in Bangladesh, became the sole distributor of the Oxford (AstraZeneca) vaccine in Bangladesh. Its vaccine was co-developed with the Oxford University's Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group and was approved both in the United Kingdom and India. "So, we would like to assure the public that, in fact, we are all on course".

Mkhize said the department of health had begun discussions with all stakeholders to ensure the vaccination programme would proceed smoothly.

South Africa has yet to sign a large direct deal with any of those manufacturers. Thereafter, it can supply vaccines to private hospitals approved by the government. How ethical is this price disparity amidst a global pandemic?

The three provinces with the most people who are now infected include KwaZulu-Natal, which has 80 656 active cases, followed by the Western Cape with 41 424 and Gauteng with 39 400.