South Africa's health regulatory body has granted approval to the world's largest drug manufacturer Serum Institute of India (SII) to supply COVID-19 vaccine to the country. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Friday that the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has granted approval to the SII, which is producing the vaccine in collaboration with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, to supply the drug to the country.
The approval comes amid growing concerns that the 1.5 million vaccine doses to be shipped to South Africa in the next few weeks had not been approved by the local regulator. We will, in the next coming days, engage with the public in order to give an update on the progress of the first batch of the vaccines that we committed would be received in the first quarter," Mkhize said. The minister had earlier told the country's parliament that the SII would supply a million doses of the vaccine to South Africa by the end of January and a further 500,000 in February, which would be used to vaccinate front line healthcare workers.
At this stage we would like to assure South Africans that all is on track. We are working closely with all relevant stakeholders to ensure a smooth implementation of the vaccine roll-out programme, Mkhize said. South Africa is battling a second wave of the COVID-19 as well as a new variant of the deadly virus.
The country reported 11,761 new COVID-19 cases and 575 deaths in the last 24 hours. With this, the total number of fatalities in the country has reached 40,076. According to the Johns Hopkins University data, the country has 1,392,568 COVID-19 cases. The minister said that his department had also been offered vaccines from private agents.
As a department we have resolved and wish to advise the public that it is critical that any such agent and vaccine authenticity must be verified directly with manufacturers. This is the only way, in our view, to guarantee the quality of the vaccines that may be acquired through third parties, Mkhize said.