Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has confirmed that the Northern Cape, Free State, the North West and Gauteng provinces are all in the grip of a third wave of Covid-19 infections.
Speaking to media in the Northern Cape on Tuesday, Mkhize said the province had been in its third wave of infections for weeks, explaining that it had not gotten out of the second wave, with infections increasing after Easter.
“The country as a whole is not yet on the third wave and the third wave will probably be coming up once you get the numbers in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape pushing up. Also the Gauteng numbers are going to go up. Our models have shown that Gauteng is the one that’s likely to have much more numbers and a higher third wave than the rest of the country. We are monitoring the situation,” he stated.
Mkhize said Northern Cape’s vaccination plan was based on the rollout of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine, which is being held up by regulatory approvals.
The Minister revealed that he had been in discussion with J&J and they had given assurances on the vaccine, the production of which has been delayed owing to questionable manufacturing conditions and contamination issues.
South Africa is awaiting the go-ahead from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to roll out the vaccines, which Mkhize says, have been waiting for a month and a half to be used.
“I’ve discussed with Johnson and Johnson. They say as far as they are concerned they have no problem, they analysed the samples. We don’t work that way. What happens, we need our regulator to say you can use it and the regulator must come back and say we’ve discussed with the FDA, we’ve discussed with the European Medical Agency, we’ve analysed the reports, we are comfortable with the fact that these [vaccines] can be used,” Mkhize said.
He explained that it is not the manufacturer that authorises the use of vaccines, but the regulator.
Mkhize revealed he had called a meeting with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and J&J and concluded that a meeting must be called between the FDA and SAHPRA.
“Because they are the regulators, they must clear their issues and release the vaccine when they feel we need to get the vaccine. We are very desperate to get those vaccines, we need them yesterday. I have said two-thirds of all the people that need to be vaccinated are awaiting the J&J vaccine," he stated.