Cabinet has urged the public to avoid buying fake COVID-19 vaccines as government works around the clock to speed up the rollout of vaccines.
Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, issued this warning on Thursday morning when she briefed the media on the outcomes of the previous day’s Cabinet meeting.
This comes after the police seized 400 vials, equivalent to about 2 400 doses, of fake COVID-19 jabs at a warehouse in Germiston, Gauteng, last week.
The officers also recovered fake masks and have since arrested three suspects.
According to the Minister, the counterfeit vaccines distributed by “unscrupulous peddlers” have the potential to endanger the lives of unsuspecting citizens.
Through the Health Department, Ntshavheni said government has started to implement a free vaccination programme that will reach all South Africans who volunteer to be vaccinated.
The Minister announced that over 100 000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated throughout the country.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni have since briefed Cabinet regarding contract negotiations for vaccine acquisition with different pharmaceutical companies, Ntshavheni said.
“Cabinet considered some of the difficult terms in the contracts that are not aligned to the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act, 1999 (Act 1 of 1999) and acknowledged the deviations already granted by National Treasury in the interests of the lives of South Africans.”
She said there are requirements for prepayment that are normally not allowed in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
However, the National Treasury has allowed the exemption to grant prepayment provisions to ensure that South Africans have access to the vaccines as soon as possible.
Cabinet has thrown its weight behind the Treasury and Health Department to continue with the negotiations and ensure quick access to vaccines for all.
Cabinet is confident that negotiations will be concluded speedily.
Meanwhile, she said a Johnson & Johnson contract has already been signed and terms agreed to with the multinational corporation.
Meanwhile, Cabinet has called on everyone to remain vigilant and continue practising health protocols.
These include wearing a mask in public, washing hands or using a 70% alcohol-based hand sanitiser, maintaining social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.
“The prevention of the possible third wave is all in our hands,” the Minister added.
Cabinet has also welcomed Deputy President David Mabuza’s visit to the Biovac storage facility in Midrand, Gauteng on 2 March.
The tour was part of the work of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on COVID-19 Vaccines, which oversees the successful rollout of the vaccination programme.
According to the Minister, government and the private sector jointly own a Cape Town-based biopharmaceutical company, which was formed in 2003.
Biovac is responsible for the country’s immunisation programmes in vaccine development, logistics of storing and distribution.