Source: South African Government @GovernmentZA
  • The SA government shared photos of the first shipment of one million doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, which left Mumbai on Sunday.
  • The shipment, carried by Emirates, should land in Johannesburg on Monday.
  • It will be stored and distributed by the pharmaceutical institute Biovac, which is part-owned by government.
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South Africa's first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines is on its way to Johannesburg 

The SA government confirmed in a tweet that the first million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute in India, left the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai on Sunday, and will arrive at OR Tambo airport on Monday. The shipment is transported by Dubai airline Emirates, 

Source: South African Government @GovernmentZA
Photo: SA government

Government shared photos taken at the shipment's departure, which feature South Africa's consul general in Mumbai, Andrea Kühn, and other members of the consulate, as well as security personnel. 

The South Africans seemingly presented a banner to mark the occasion. The banner features former president Nelson Mandela and Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, who spent 21 years in South Africa, from 1893 to 1914, as a young lawyer. 

It describes the vaccines as being in "solidarity and enduring relations between South Africa and India", and features the words "thank you" in Hindi and various South African languages.

Source: South African Government @GovernmentZA
Source: South African Government @GovernmentZA

Kühn extended South Africa's "deep appreciation for the exceptional and professional support rendered by the government of India, the institute, the cargo service at the airport, Expo Freight Private Limited and Emirates Airline", president Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson Khusela Diko said in a note. Diko is currently still on "special" leave amid accusations that she failed to disclose financial interests. 

Another 500,000 doses from the Serum Institute will follow in February. The Serum Institute is the biggest vaccine manufacturer in the world, and last week started exporting vaccines, after the Indian government, wanting to ensure that its own domestic immunisation programme was underway first, gave the go-ahead, Reuters reported.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine requires two doses, administered four weeks apart. It must be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines are the cheapest of the major vaccines options, at only R54 per dose, and it also has a longer shelf life than the others.

READ | What we know about the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine which healthcare workers will soon receive

Once it arrives in Johannesburg, the shipment of vaccines will be stored and distributed by the pharmaceutical institute Biovac, which is partly owned by government.

Research suggests it may be provide 70% protection against Covid-19 - but it is not clear how effective it will be against the more contagious Covid-19 variant first discovered in South Africa. 

Recently, a German vaccination authority recommended - in a draft proposal - that the vaccine should not be given to people over 65 - amid uncertainty about how effective it is among that age group.

The million doses that should land in South Africa on Monday will go to healthcare workers.

READ | Here’s how registration for a Covid-19 vaccine will work in SA

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