By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
South Africa is facing delays to its Covid-19 vaccine supply because of 'unreasonable terms' being demanded by manufacturers, says health minister Zweli Mkhize.
The government has been notified by Johnson & Johnson that the company won’t sign off on the supply of 20 million doses until it receives a letter from the South African government supporting its investment in a domestic company, Mkhize told a parliamentary briefing on Wednesday (14 April).
"We have been taken aback by this as there are clauses in the agreement that express this support," he said. "I mention this to demonstrate to members some of the difficult and sometimes unreasonable terms and preconditions that we have had to navigate through."
Mkhize announced the voluntary suspension of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine rollout in South Africa on Tuesday evening.
He said that the decision was taken following the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation to temporarily pause the J&J vaccine programme in the USA.
In taking the decision, Mkhize said that the FDA recommendation 'should not be taken lightly'.
"Based on their advice, we have determined to voluntarily suspend our rollout until the causal relationship between the development of clots and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is sufficiently interrogated," he said.
"It’s important to be aware that with any vaccine it is essential to closely monitor its safety and efficacy. If a problem is reported following a vaccination, a thorough investigation should take place," he said.
Mkhize that the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority will collate all the information on the vaccine’s use in order to do a thorough assessment.
South Africa is using the J&J vaccine as part of its Sisonke trial rollout which is targeting healthcare workers. Mkhize said he was hopeful that the temporary suspension would not impact the country’s long-term vaccine plans.
Data presented by the Department of Health in the parliamentary presentation shows that South Africa’s weekly Covid-19 case average has continued to decline in the first two weeks of April.
The 14-day comparison from 29 March shows that the cases decreased from 15,163 in the preceding 14 days to 14,113 cases in the last 14 days – a 7% decrease.
A 50.7% decrease was reported in the number of Covid-19 related death over the same comparison period.