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Biovac’s Plan for distribution of the first tranche of SA’s Covid-19 vaccine

South Africa’s vaccine company Biovac distributes 25 million vaccines a year. Here’s how it will get the much-needed first tranche of jabs out when they land next Friday the 29th of January 2021.

In August last year, the CEO of South Africa’s vaccine company Biovac, Dr. Morena Makhoana and his team started working the phones to vaccine manufacturers. As a member of government’s vaccine advisory council, he could see how quickly vaccines were being developed across the world.
When the first one million vaccines touch down at OR Tambo International Airport next Friday, Makhoana and his team will be there. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is the cheapest on the market and is well suited to SA conditions, but Business Day has reported that the US$5.25 (R79.30) a dose price tag is higher than the rest of Africa and European countries. More about that later.
A punishing second wave of Covid-19 has brought the frontline of healthcare workers to its knees. And the jab in the arm can stand between life and death.

SA is buying Covishield vaccines made by the Serum Institute in India under licence from Oxford-AstraZeneca, which is the only company (as far as DM168 can establish), that has licensed its patent for manufacturing to sell to poor countries at US$3 (R45.32), the price likely for most sub-Saharan African countries. SA is middle-income and is being charged the higher price.
Biovac is able to distribute nationally between 72 to 96 hours after the Covishield jabs land from India and after they get through regulatory and lab approvals, once its processes have been calibrated.

“We supply and distribute between 70% and 80% of paediatric vaccines and last year started manufacturing a six-in-one vaccine,” says Makhoana.
Biovac is a public-private partnership with 47% of its shares owned by government and the rest by the management team. SA has a well-developed paediatric vaccine programme and the Department of Health’s expanded programme for immunisation is a well-oiled machine. The immunisation history can provide the spine of a national Covid-19 immunisation strategy with the private sector system supporting it.

First published in the Daily Maverick newspaper.