The health ministry will issue a tender on February 5 to store and distribute Covid-19 vaccines, it said on Thursday, in an effort to speed up a vaccine rollout that opposition leaders and scientists have said is too slow.

The qualifying bidders will be involved in phases 2 and 3 three of the country’s vaccine programme, director-general Sandile Buthelezi told Reuters.

Health experts, scientists and political rivals have accused the government of taking too long to procure and plan the distribution of vaccines against the new coronavirus — a charge it rejects.

The DA announced court action against the government on Wednesday on the same issue.

Earlier in January, the government said it was approaching Imperial Logistics’ Health Science unit, Denmark’s DSV Panalpina, pharmacy chain Clicks Group’s United Pharmaceutical Distributors (UPD) and pharmaceutical company Biovac for storage and distribution for six months, under a closed bidding process.

Buthelezi said the tender would be open to all eligible companies. Imperial has said it would participate in the bid. Health minister Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday that SA would get one-million doses of AstraZeneca shots from the Serum Institute of India (SII) on February 1 for its healthcare workers.

SA will receive 1.5-million doses from India in total. It plans to vaccinate 1.25-million health workers under the first phase of a vaccine rollout. Partly state-owned Biovac has been contracted to import, store and distribute the 1.5-million doses.

Under the second and the third phases, the country will be inoculating senior citizens and people working in institutions, followed by those who suffer from co-morbidities.



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