Govt evaluating Sputnik V vaccine, mulls China's Sinopharm offer - Mkhize

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize will speak to the World Health Organization (WHO) in another attempt to figure out how government can still use the AstraZeneca vaccine after a study confirmed that it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate symptoms of the second variant.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize addressed a virtual meeting on 4 August 2020. Picture: @DrZweliMkhize/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG – Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that government was in the advanced stages of evaluating and engaging the manufacturers of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine while it was considering China's offer on the Sinopharm vaccine.

Mkhize will later on Wednesday morning be speaking to the World Health Organization (WHO) in another attempt to figure out how government can still use the AstraZeneca vaccine after a study confirmed that it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate symptoms of the second variant.

Some countries have already expressed interest in swapping or buying some of the AstraZeneca jabs from South Africa.

EXPLAINED: Astrazeneca's COVID-19 vaccine efficacy and expiry dates

The minister said that some batches of Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine were expected to be used as part of the first phase of the immunisation plan for healthcare workers as early as next week.

Mkhize said that South Africa would also be getting Pfizer vaccines, which would be used in the first phase of the rollout.

"The country has also secured the doses from Pfizer for the phase one rollout, so they'll be brought forward earlier than originally planned, that's been through our negotiation. Our scientists are continuing to evaluate other candidates while simultaneously engaging manufacturers."

There are, however, concerns about the fact that the Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at -70 degrees but Mkhize said that there was a plan.

"They have packaging that carries, as they transport it, a freezing capacity that allows them to carry the stuff without it being damaged for a certain period. So, they've given us the equipment that is needed to be able to deal with that, so our provinces have identified areas where there are such freezers where you can store the vaccine without any problem.

"There's obviously a few offers from various companies that said they had access to such refrigerators so when we roll it out, we'll make sure that nothing is damaged because of the breaking of the cold chain in the process."

From next week, South Africa will also be receiving Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which have shown to be effective against the second variant of the virus.

It is understood that the health regulator SAHPRA is processing an application for the vaccine to be granted emergency authorisation.

WATCH: SA's phase 1 COVID-19 vaccination rollout to continue with J&J vaccine

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