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Healthcare workers will be first in line as vaccines expected to arrive on Monday

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The minister said phase one of inoculation would focus on healthcare workers, both in the private and public sector.

Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

Within a matter of weeks, healthcare workers will begin receiving the first doses of the AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, as doses are expected to arrive in the country on Monday.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said on Thursday night during a webinar on vaccine inoculation, that AstraZeneca’s 1.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses will leave India, from the Serum Institute of India, on Sunday.

This announcement follows the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority confirming that the AstraZeneca vaccine had been approved for emergency use in the country.

Once the batches have arrived, the packages will undergo quarantine and quality assurance protocols for a period of between 10 to 14 days. Mkhize said this was crucial and in line with protocol to ensure the products received were of quality standard and above board. The vaccine doses will then be distributed to all provinces for healthcare professionals to access.

“We are now ready to move ahead with the vaccine and inoculation phase,” Mkhize said.

The minister said phase one of inoculation would focus on healthcare workers, both in the private and public sector.

Healthcare workers have put their lives on the line in treating Covid-19 patients with some being infected and even facing death.

The webinar held on Wednesday night also saw vaccine advisers take to the podium to explain how the first phase of inoculation will entail.

The acting chief operating officer at the department of health, Milani Wolmarans, explained that an online database system has been created to monitor the vaccination process.

The system is called the electronic vaccine data system.

The system will see healthcare workers being enrolled for vaccination and the application process. Once this is done the health worker will receive an SMS and will go with their ID and medical aid to the vaccination centre.

Once at the centre, the vaccinator will scan the vaccine code contained in the SMS and then verify the worker and vaccinate. Once this process is final, the healthcare worker will then be told when their next vaccine shot is due.

Once the second dose is taken, the healthcare worker will receive a vaccination certificate.

It is unclear yet when the online data registration system will go live.

Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela, the CEO of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, said the process for approving the AstraZeneca vaccine was above board.

She said once the product lands in SA it will undergo a “lot release test”.

“When approving the vaccine, we looked at the quality of the product, where it was manufactured. When it arrives in SA it will undergo a further lot release test. We are quite confident in the process.

Semete-Makokotlela explained that Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have applied for regulatory vaccine approval and their applications were being considered.

The deputy director-general at the health department, Anban Pillay, explained that the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine will come in two doses.

It will be administered through a needle and it can be stored at between 2ºC and 8ºC. Symptoms include fatigue, chills for a few days – but these have been recorded to last for a few days.

The government plans to cover the costs for healthcare workers who are not insured. The department also plans to use a variety of distribution centres to administer the vaccine.

Political Bureau