ACCORDING to Medscape, as of 8 February, The New York Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker listed that there were 67 vaccines in human trials, and that 20 had reached final research stages.

There were also almost 90 preclinical vaccines under investigation.

The South African government has so far confirmed procuring three vaccines that were going to be used in the first phase of the vaccination programme.

Over one million healthcare workers will be vaccinated, with either the single-dose shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) or double-dose shot from Pfizer.

Mzansi has secured nine million vaccine doses from JNJ and 20 million from Pfizer.

The JNJ vaccine offers up to 70% protection against moderate to severe Covid-19 illness while Pfizer offers 95% protection against the virus, 28 days after vaccination.

This is unlike the JNJ, which is compatible with standard vaccine distribution channels and can be stored at a temperature of -20? over two years or 2? to 8? for at least three months.

The Pfizer vaccine requires very cold conditions of -70? for up to 10 days unopened, temperatures that have been said would be a challenge for countries that lack resources and facilities to store it at such “abnormal” temperatures.

These storage requirements are not going to be an issue for Mzansi, as said by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize at a recent briefing.

“They (Pfizer) have given us equipment to store the vaccine. When the roll-out happens, we’ll make sure that nothing gets damaged in terms of storage.”

As things stand, Mzansi has an agreement to collaborate with Chinese manufacturer Sinovac Biotech.

Mkhize reported that the manufacturer had offered to make at least two million vaccine doses of their CoronaVac vaccine available to Mzansi during one of the engagements between the two.

The double-dose vaccine has been reported to offer 100% protection against severe illness, hospitalisation or death. It provides over 83% protection for cases requiring medical treatment and protection against disease caused by Covid-19 by 50%.

Another vaccine Mzansi is considering is the Cuban Soberana 2, which will be starting phase III trials in March.

The Soberana 2 is one of four vaccines that the Latin American country is working on, and it is the only country in that region that has so far developed its own vaccines.

The National Educators Health and Allied Workers’ Union has been at the forefront, calling for government to consider other vaccine options available.

According to the union, both the CoronaVac and Soberana 2 should be given the same consideration that vaccines manufactured in Europe and the West have been given.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, however, announced during the State of the Nation Address that negotiations with various manufacturers were ongoing and that Mzansi would rely on a science-driven approach on decisions made regarding the vaccines.

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Innovation as well as the Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group.

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