South Africa is dispatching 1.1 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines following its decision to resume the nationwide coronavirus vaccination programme on Wednesday after a two-week pause, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed on Tuesday.Mkhize said the first 1.1 million doses of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine were being dispatched from its Gqeberha manufacturing plant in the Eastern Cape Province to 95 sites prepared for the vaccination programme across the country.
South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare collaborated with Johnson & Johnson to establish the capacity required for the manufacture of the vaccine at the company’s Gqeberha facility for both domestic and export markets, according to the minister.
“These vaccines are being flown from the plant in Gqeberha where the final steps of manufacturing – filling and finishing – were completed,” Mkhize said.
He said the vaccine vials were being flown to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, from where they will be transported to the country’s 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 nationwide,” he said.
In addition, Mkhize said the country was expecting over 650,000 doses of the United States-made double-dose Pfizer vaccine before 17 May — when the second phase of the vaccination rollout is expected to begin.
South Africa, in its current first phase, has targeted the vaccination of 1.5 million health care workers before starting to vaccinate the rest of the 50-million population in the second phase which has targeted 46 million people to achieve a herd immunity.