By Nqobile Dludla
JOHANNESBURG, April 22 (Reuters) - South Africa's largest logistics company Imperial Logistics IPLJ.J has been awarded the tender to import COVID-19 vaccines for the second and subsequent phases of the country's vaccination programme, it told Reuters on Thursday.
Imperial Logistics was among a slew of bidders who had shown interest in importing, storing and distributing vaccines in the country under a tender floated by the government in February for its phase 2 vaccination drive.
The government is yet to announce the names of the selected bidders, a health ministry spokesman said, but Imperial Logistics confirmed in an emailed response it had won the contract for imports.
"Imperial is pleased to announce that we have been awarded the opportunity to participate in the importation of COVID-19 vaccines into South Africa," the logistics company said in an emailed response.
The government plans to start the much-delayed phase 2 of its vaccination programme from May 17, under which it plans to inoculate essential workers, people working in crowded settings, people over 60 years of age and those over 18 years with higher health risks.
It is buying the vaccines from Johnson & Johnson JNJ.N and Pfizer PFE.N, with J&J's first commercial batch expected this month. All the shots that South Africa will receive from J&J will be manufactured at a local facility of Aspen Pharmacare APNJ.J, J&J has said.
Imperial Logistics said while it will not be involved in the transportation, storage and distribution of the vaccines locally, its mandate also involves delivering the J&J vaccine from the Aspen facility to other local distributors.
Other bidders for the tender include pharmacy chain Clicks Group's CLSJ.J United Pharmaceutical Distributors, alongside rival Dis-Chem Pharmacies DCPJ.J, the local unit of Denmark's DSV Panalpina DSV.CO and FedEx Express South Africa FDX.N.
DSV declined to comment on the tender awards, while others were yet to hear from the health ministry.
(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Promit Mukherjee and Jan Harvey)
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