* All qualifying bidders welcomed
* Bidders will be involved in phase 2 and 3 of vaccine rollout
By Nqobile Dludla
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 28 (Reuters) – South Africa’s health ministry will issue a tender to store and distribute COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 5, it said on Thursday, in an effort to speed up a vaccine rollout that opposition leaders and scientists have said is too slow.
The qualifying bidders will be involved in phase two and phase three of the country’s vaccine programme, Director General Sandile Buthelezi told Reuters.
Health experts, scientists and political rivals have accused the government of taking too long to procure and plan the distribution of vaccines against the new coronavirus – a charge it rejects.
Its opposition party announced a court action against the government on Wednesday on the same issue.
Earlier this month the government said it was approaching Imperial Logistics’ Health Science unit, Denmark’s DSV Panalpina, pharmacy chain Clicks Group’s United Pharmaceutical Distributors (UPD) and pharmaceutical company Biovac for storage and distribution for six months under a closed bidding process.
Buthelezi said on Thursday the tender will be open to all eligible companies.
Imperial has said it will participate in the bid.
South Africa’s health minister said on Wednesday the country will get one million doses of AstraZeneca shots from the Serum Institute of India (SII) on Feb. 1 for its healthcare workers. South Africa will receive 1.5 million doses from India in total.
It plans to vaccinate 1.25 million health workers under a first phase of vaccine rollout. Partly state-owned Biovac has been contracted to import, store and distribute the 1.5 million doses.
Under the second and the third phases, the country will be inoculating senior citizens and people working in institutions followed by those who suffer from co-morbidities. (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla Editing by Promit Mukherjee and Barbara Lewis)
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