SA to add Russian Sputnik, Chinese Sinopharm shots to vaccine array

By Paul Vecchiatto

(Bloomberg) – South Africa plans to buy Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines and shots developed by China’s Sinopharm Group Co. Ltd as it steps up efforts to tackle the coronavirus.

The government will order 10 million doses of each shot, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told lawmakers in Cape Town on Wednesday. “We are doing this now because we do expect the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority to approve those vaccines,” he said.

South Africa, the nation that’s been hardest hit by the pandemic on the continent, resumed its administration of Johnson & Johnson vaccines to health-care workers on Wednesday, after putting their use on hold for two weeks due to concerns that they could be linked to blood clots. Almost 1.58 million Covid-19 cases have been detected in South Africa and more than 54,000 of those diagnosed with the disease have died.

The single-dose J&J shots were given to 292,623 health workers as part of a drug trial that enabled normal regulatory procedures to be bypassed prior to their use being paused. The vaccine has since been approved for general usage.

Earlier this week, the Health Ministry said sufficient vaccines had been secured for 45 million adults, with a first batch of 1.1 million of J&J shots that were produced at an Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. plant in the Eastern Cape province due to be dispatched in coming days. Shots developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech have also been secured.

The purchase of the J&J vaccines “has been completed and we are just finalising some audit issues,” Mkhize said Wednesday.

Plans are in place to inoculate 16.5 million people from May to October with the aid of private health-care providers, which will buy shots from the national government, he said.

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