Approximately 2 billion rands (about 124 million U.S. dollars) will be earmarked for COVID-19 vaccine purchases this year, according to South Africa’s National Health Department.
The health department said at least 22 million vaccines are still available, but it is better to set funds aside now than to request funds from the National Treasury at a later stage.
“This will depend on the demand and uptake of vaccines, we can’t relax because of the current uptake, what if the situation changes suddenly and more variants and waves emerge,” health department spokesperson Foster Mohale told Xinhua when asked why the department was allocating these billions when vaccines were available.
Mohale said the country had 11 million Pfizer and 11 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The health regulator SAHPRA extended the expiry dates for the Pfizer vaccine stored at an ultra cold temperature of -70 degrees Centigrade.
“The 92,370 (doses) that had technically expired were still in storage so are now useable until June 30,” Mohale said, adding that 5,669,130 (doses) that were to expire at the end of June will now expire at the end of September after the extension. Another 4,831,560 (doses) that were to expire at the end of July will now expire at the end of October.
South Africa has been experiencing a rise in new COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks and it’s expected to enter the fifth wave. Because of a lack of demand from citizens, however, South Africa is scaling back its COVID-19 vaccination drive.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla on Tuesday said the department wasn’t going to remove all the precautions in place, such as the wearing of masks, and the limitations in crowd sizes. “We completely disagree with armchair critics who argue that we should drop all public health measures and just let the virus spread at will and only worry about whether hospitals are full or not,” he said. Enditem