Covid-19 vaccine registration
Dis-Chem will administer the Pfizer vaccine. (Photo by Deaan Vivier/Beeld/Gallo Images via Getty Images)
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  • A Pfizer Covid-19 shot will be available at Dis-Chem.
  • Dis-Chem says it has the capability to vaccinate 800,000 people per month.
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* This article has been updated below.

As South Africa moves to the second phase of its vaccination programme – due to start on Monday – there will be a way to choose the type of vaccine.

Pharmacy retailer Dis-Chem has been allocated the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because it has the ability to keep the doses at the required ultra-low temperatures, the government says.

That means selecting a Dis-Chem as the location to receive a vaccine will see you get the Pfizer shot, even though there are no plans to give South Africans a choice in which vaccine they receive.

A steady stream of Pfizer vaccine doses are due to keep arriving in South Africa, but the government has made no guarantees as to what the mix of vaccines may be in future, or where which type will be sent.

Pfizer said in April that its vaccine had been found to be 100% effective in South Africa, despite fears that the B.1.351 variant of the coronavirus may achieve vaccine escape. But other studies have suggested those who receive the Pfizer vaccine could still be at risk of breakthrough infection.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered to healthcare workers does not require extremely low temperature storage, and is given as a single dose, making it more suitable to the many government and non-specialised sites due to join some 3,000 points where injections are due to be given.

The Pfizer vaccine, a two-dose shot, is administered 14 days apart.

The government is racing to conclude the last phase of its vaccine rollout by February 2022. It began administering shots in February and focused on 1.2 million healthcare workers in the first phase. The rollout of the vaccines has been criticised for its slow pace, with only 455,169 people vaccinated since.

On Monday, 17 May, the government plans to commence its second phase of the vaccine rollout, focusing on more than 16 million people and prioritising older people and those with comorbidities.

On Friday, Dis-Chem said it would be able to begin vaccinating the public during the week of 24 May, at 11 out of 32 vaccination sites it has managed to secure at critical locations across the country.

On average, 600 vaccinations can be administered daily at the designated sites while up to 50 shots can be given at Dis-Chem’s in-store clinics, the company said in a statement.

Provided government stock is readily available, Dis-Chem says it would be able to vaccinate approximately 800,000 people each month.

Dis-Chem previously told Business Insider South Africa that it was planning on setting up vaccine sites inside shopping malls. It said it expects its role would expand as the various phases of the vaccination programme are implemented.

“Dis-Chem has negotiated with landlords to utilise empty premises in centres where the group has a retail pharmacy presence.  Each site has been fully equipped with all the required fixtures including refrigeration units, technology and emergency equipment to ensure a thorough and complete vaccine process,” said Dis-Chem.

“Pfizer stock has been allocated to Dis-Chem as the group has the necessary infrastructure to manage its extreme handling conditions. The vaccinators will be supported by a team of volunteers to regulate the flow of patients and manage the stringent administrative requirements,” the retailer said.

* This article, including the headline, was updated after publication to remove references to a R70 administration charge at Dis-Chem. The department of health says no Covid-19 vaccine recipient will be charged out-of-pocket. The R70 administration fee will be charged either to medical aid, for those who are members, or to the state.

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