Sunday, 31 January 2021 11:58

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has confirmed that the first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines are en route to South Africa from India.

"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 31 January 2021," the department said in a statement on Sunday.

"This milestone highlights the solid relations and deep friendship that exist between South Africa and India, and further consolidated the cooperation between our two countries in the fight against the spread of the global pandemic," it said.

The departure of the Covid-19 vaccines was attended by South Africa’s consul-general in Mumbai, Andrea Kühn, as well as consulate staff .

At the event, Kühn extended her appreciation for the support from the government of India, SII, Mumbai International Airport Cargo, Expo Freight Private Limited and Emirates Airline for their assistance in the development and transportation of the vaccine.

In a briefing on Wednesday evening (27 January), Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize confirmed that one million dosages of the vaccine are scheduled to leave India on Sunday (31 January) and will arrive in the country on Monday (1 February).

A further 500,000 vaccine doses are set to arrive in the country later in February.

In a surprise announcement, Mkhize said that South Africa is set to receive an additional 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

He said that these vaccines have been secured and that government was now just awaiting manufacturers to submit final agreements with details of delivery dates and exact amounts.

Further vaccine orders would be announced once details had been finalised, Mkhize said.

"We are negotiating, largely with Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, but some of it is coming via the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and Covax."

"We are reasonably comfortable that what we have paid for, signed for and are negotiating for will cover the numbers that we are looking to vaccinate," he said.

Mkhize also confirmed that the country has enough storage space to safely secure the vaccines at the correct temperatures, and that government plans to issue a formal tender process next week.