The department of health said on Wednesday that it was engaging with the Indian government to gain access to Covid-19 vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and hoped to reach a resolution soon. 

SA health authorities had also been on the verge of tying up a deal with the SII for 1.4-million Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccines for health workers for delivery in January. However, the Indian government over the weekend put the brakes on exports with company's CEO, Adar Poonawalla saying that the Indian government had placed a ban on exports for two months while the needs of India’s vulnerable population were met.

“We are engaging with the Indian government on the prohibition of exports. We hope to reach resolution on the matter soon,” said department spokesperson Popo Maja.

The SII later clarified that it would honour its contract to supply the Covax initiative — a global pooled initiative to provide poorer countries with access to vaccines — as well as existing agreements with other countries.

SA’s only firm commitment for a vaccine is via Covax — a pooled global initiative to provide equitable access to vaccines — with delivery expected in the second quarter of the year.

In an interview with the BBC on Tuesday evening, Poonawalla said that it was only restricted from making sales to the private market but could still supply government vaccination programmes globally. It would also honour existing contracts with Morocco, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, he said.

However, as SA had not yet concluded an agreement the deal remains uncertain.

Update: January 6 2021
This article has been updated with comment from the health department.



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