The Minister of Department of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Health on the eve of the implementation of the national Covid-19 vaccine rollout strategy recently. The strategy is driven by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) set up to oversee the smooth running of this process.

Dr Mkhize agreed that the success of the national vaccine rollout hinges on the involvement and coordination of a social compact between critical stakeholders, such as the government, labour, civil society, religious groupings, traditional leaders and the private sector.

He told the committee that the department has, to date, identified centres where the vaccines will be stored “in cold chain conditions”. Given the enormous work at hand in this regard, he warned South Africans that they must not anticipate smooth sailing. “New lessons will be learnt, mistakes will be made and challenges will mount, but we will take all that in our strides,” said Dr Mkhize.

He said 68 000 healthcare workers have registered online to be vaccinated and “this uptake is good”. Police, teachers and those with comorbidities will constitute the second phase of the rollout. The public will constitution the third phase.

Dr Mkhize told the committee that 1.5 million vaccines have been secured from India, but the department still needs to finalise agreements and delivery dates. Some nine million vaccines will come from Johnson & Johnson, with a further 20 million from Pfizer. The remainder will be secured from other suppliers. He further assured the committee that the department is on course in testing the efficacy and quality of these vaccines and the results will be made public in due course.

Dr Mkhize emphasised the significance of the private sector in carrying some of the logistical work involved in undertaking this task. However, he assured the committee that the department has taken all the necessary protocols, risks assessment and analysis to curb corruption in the rollout process.  “We don’t want corruption to cloud the hard work that many have contributed to ensure that we get vaccines, and save people’s lives and livelihoods. We won’t allow that to happen.”

“The Department of Health and the Treasury have joined forces to validate the authenticity of claims involved regarding the procurement of logistical capacity needed for the effective rollout of this process,” he assured the committee.

Abel Mputing

8 February 2021