It’s not our fault South Africa had a slow start on vaccines: Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa says that the country’s slow start to its Covid-19 vaccine rollout is the result of several factors outside of the country’s hands.

Answering oral questions in parliament on Thursday (6 May), the president said that the country stored ‘a lot of reliance’ on Johnson & Johnson as the pharmaceutical company manufactures vaccines in South Africa.

“The mishaps we have suffered have been completely out of our hands. The death of six people in the United States brought our own authority to stop the vaccination process, (which) was completely unforeseen.”

Ramaphosa said that some opponents have criticised the government for not moving ahead with its vaccinations, but the president said that the government has continued to rely on scientific advisors in this regard.

“It was due to that delay that emanated from the United States that our experts felt we should stop and pause. We knew we were not pausing for a long time.

“But just as our own delivery was meant to come through, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States identified a flaw in one of the facilities that is a partner to Johnson & Johnson.”

This also stopped the delivery of vaccines from the Aspen facility in South Africa, Ramaphosa said.

“We’ve lost time on the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, we know that. Of course we care, that’s what we’ve been doing since this pandemic started.”

Ramaphosa confirmed that the government has now finalised the contract for sufficient doses to vaccinate 41.5 million people.

In Q2 2021, three million vaccines are set to arrive from Johnson & Johnson, 4.5 million from Pfizer and an additional 1.5 million Pfizer doses through the Covax initiative.

“The plan is in place. The centres are in place. The people have been trained. The transportation is in place to transfer these Covid vaccine doses at the correct temperature. The medical aid schemes are supporting this process.

“When it comes to securing the health of our people by securing vaccines, the South African government is going to pull out all stops. If it’s necessary for the Finance Minister to come forward to for a supplementary budget, we’ll do that.”

As of Wednesday (5 May), the total number of vaccines administered in South Africa is 353,181.

There have been 2,073 new Covid-19 cases reported, taking the total reported to 1,588,221. Total deaths have reached 54,557, while recoveries have climbed to 1,510,385, leaving the country with a balance of 23,279 active cases.

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It’s not our fault South Africa had a slow start on vaccines: Ramaphosa