Imperial Logistics Covid-19 vaccine South Africa
(Wikimedia Commons)
  • Imperial Logistics has been named as the health department’s preferred private partner to assist with the importation of Covid-19 vaccines.
  • But the company can not yet say what it will charge for that service.
  • Imperial is tasked with fetching vaccines from the manufacturer and delivering them to South Africa, dealing will all paperwork along the way.
  • Here's what we do know about plans to get vaccines into the country, and then distribute them. 
  • For more articles, go to

South Africa’s health department has enlisted private companies to assist with the importation, warehousing, transporting, and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

Imperial Logistics has been selected as South Africa’s preferred private import service provider, according to a contract circular published by the department of health on Thursday.

Together with the government-partnered Biologicals and Vaccines Institute of Southern Africa (Biovac), Imperial Logistics will be responsible for getting vaccines into the country through. This includes providing “cold chain solutions” for temperature-sensitive vaccines.

But this week the company said it could not yet talk about pricing.

"We are still in the process of finalising the terms of the contracts so at this stage it is not possible to provide precise details," Esha Mansingh, executive vice president of corporate affairs and investor relations at Imperial Logistics told Business Insider South Africa.

"The only detail we can provide is as follows... Imperial, along with Biovac, is an approved importer of the Covid-19 vaccine. In order to import medicines into SA you need to be a registered pharma company. Imperial holds the requisite license via the Market Access Business (Eden Pharma SA). Going forward, each time an order is ready for collection, Imperial and Biovac will be asked to quote for the worked involved."

The department of health issued a request for proposals (RFP) to assist with its staggered vaccine rollout on 8 February.

Imperial Logistics, which employs over 25,000 people in 26 countries, confirmed its interest in the RFP shortly after it was published.

READ | SA vaccine tracker: Over 60s can register, and a vaccine-injury roadblock is finally on the move

“Our track record includes the widespread distribution of millions of anti-retroviral and other critical medicines in complex and challenging markets in Africa, as well as the ongoing supply of vaccines in the South African government's paediatric programme,” said Mohammed Akoojee, Imperial's group chief executive officer.

“We also reach thousands of outpatient distribution points in South Africa as often as required, and are therefore able to ensure that wastage is minimised and last-mile distribution is both compliant and efficient.”

Under the new contract, Imperial Logistics is responsible for collecting Covid-19 vaccines from the manufacturer’s production site and facilitating international carriage to South Africa, covering import and export documentation, foreign airport charges, insurance, and customs clearance.

In the immediate term, these importation responsibilities concern the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which is produced abroad. The health department expects 6.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to arrive in May, out of a total 30 million due to be delivered by the end of 2021.

The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, which was only recently released from its momentary pause, is being produced by Aspen Pharmaceuticals in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) and will not need to be imported. Imperial Logistics will, however, transport the J&J doses from the Gqeberha factory to key distribution points around South Africa, according to MoneyWeb.

Government says most internationally acquired vaccines will arrive at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, “although there may be instances when Cape Town International Airport or King Shaka International Airport will be used.”

Within South Africa, DSV Healtcare will be responsible for distribution

DSV Healthcare, which represents more than 45 individual healthcare organisations in South Africa, has been named as the health department’s preferred transporting, warehousing and distribution partner along with Biovac.

DSV Healthcare, a subsidiary of the Danish transport and logistics company, DSV Panalpina A/S, distributes pharmaceutical products, medical devices, and consumer health products throughout southern Africa.

As government’s logistical partner in the vaccine rollout, DSV is responsible for “effective, efficient, and safe storage and transportation” of doses.

The circular issued by the department of health indicates that DSV will be chiefly responsible for transporting and storing vaccines which are required to be kept at freezing cold temperatures (-70°C). The “delivered price per vile” charged by DSV, as indicated by the department, will be R19.61.

The cost to deliver a single vaccine dose which is kept at between 2°C and 8°C, handled primarily by Biovac, is listed as R9.64.

The contract period indicated in the health department’s circular is until 31 December 2022.

Phase two of government’s vaccine rollout is expected to begin on 17 May 2021.

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