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Pretoria: The Department of Health and Vodacom Group are pleased to announce that multimillion rand new cold chain equipment, that is expected to boost Covid-19 vaccine storage and distribution, is currently being distributed around the country. This follows the donation of €4.2 million (R74 million) by Vodacom Group and Vodafone Foundation to procure cold-chain equipment to ensure that Covid 19 vaccines and other lifesaving medicine, are safely delivered to several countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Vaccine storage is a challenge for various countries on the African continent. A recent survey of 34 African countries by the African regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that, in 31% of countries, more than 50% of districts have challenges with cold-chain capacity that are significantly prohibitive for vaccine rollout.
Cold-chain management is a crucial part of ensuring a safe and effective inoculation drive. Vaccines require uninterrupted refrigeration which meet certain temperature requirements, from the place of manufacturing until the point of administration. If the cold-chain is broken at any point from arrival to administration, this may affect the effectiveness and efficacy of vaccines, which means they become potentially unsafe for immunisation.
"As the government we appreciate the continued support from the business sector since the outbreak of the pandemic, and believe this huge contribution by Vodacom will go a long way in safeguarding vaccines from avoidable loss. However, we now need to intensify vaccine demand creation to ensure that our people continue to come forward in numbers to vaccinate and get booster shots in order for the country to reach population immunity", said Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla.
"We are pleased to be able to work closely with the Department of Health and support the vaccine rollout programme, ensuring that much needed Covid-19 vaccines reach vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities. Moreover, the cold-chain equipment, which includes freezers, refrigerators, cold boxes and carriers, can also assist government beyond the Covid-19 pandemic and assist with the storage and distribution of other life-saving vaccines, including those used for child immunisations," says Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom Group.
Procurement of the life-saving equipment was managed through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), established by the African Union as a component in support of the Africa Vaccine Strategy. The Department of Health is at the forefront of distributing the cold-chain equipment across the country, including dispatching it to remote areas that do not have the infrastructure required for extended vaccine refrigeration.
Vodafone Foundation funded the delivery of 690 cold chain units which were allocated to Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Tanzania. Vodacom Group has also donated 2,197 cold chain units in South Africa.