South African government on January 10 announced that it will store the shipment from India’s coronavirus vaccine in a ‘secret place’ to mitigate the risks of theft and sale in the black market, according to sources of PTI. The South African government signed a contract with Serum Institute of India to procure 1.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with the first batches of supply to begin in the first quarter of 2021, January, and the remaining batches in February.
Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja told the weekly City Press, “The vaccines are a highly-rated commodity once they're stolen and reach the black market," according to PTI. He added that the COVID jabs are expensive and chances are that it can be subjected to theft and sold at black market prices due to high demand among the citizens. Therefore, the government will allocate a confidential space for the consignment to be stored, and the vaccines will be distributed later from there to the clinical pharmacies and inoculation centers.
"There will be a central place where the consignment will be stored and from where we will distribute it to hospital and clinic pharmacies that can store it," Popo Maja said, according to PTI.
"There's a security issue too because countries which have already begun rolling out the vaccines have warned us that there is a huge theft of it, so we may not even disclose where it is being centrally stored,” he added.
At the South African parliament, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced that Africa had struck a deal with India to get the domestically manufactured vaccine doses as the country recorded nearly 22,000 infections and 844 covid-related fatalities. UK-based AstraZeneca partnered with the world’s largest Serum Institute of India (SII) in Pune to produce the vaccine for the middle-low income countries. “Today we announce that South Africa will be receiving the first one million doses of vaccine in January and another 500,000 in February from the Serum Institute of India,” PTI quoted Mkhize as saying. He added, talks were ongoing to procure India’s Covax consignment, which the government could deliver later in the year.