Contrary to the recent media reports that there is no snakebite antivenom in the country, there is snakebite antivenom available in South Africa and more snakebite antivenom doses are being manufactured.
We have scaled up our snakebite antivenom production and have been dispatching units since December 2022. We continue to distribute this much-needed and life-saving medicine throughout the country. As such, between 1 December 2022 and 31 March 2023 we have distributed 1422 doses throughout the country and still have doses currently in the production phase.
We have been distributing a batch of 1077 snakebite antivenom doses as from Monday and continue to maintain a limited number of doses for emergencies.
It is worth noting that to produce snakebite antivenom, the NHLS requires a consistent and dependable power supply. The continuous switch over to generators during power outages interrupts production which impacts on productivity and maintaining a stockpile. Within a month, we would have significantly reduced the backlog, and after two months, we would be back to normal production rates.
Our investments in backup power systems and renewable energy sources will allow us to meet the energy demands of our manufacturing process while also ensuring an uninterrupted supply of snakebite antivenom to those in need.
The NHLS management is closely monitoring and actively working on emergency measures, as well as developing solutions to overcome current bottlenecks caused by energy disruptions. Despite some successes, ongoing power outages continue to have a significant impact on our production.
We recognise and appreciate the public’s concern about the current snakebite antivenom shortage, but we urge South Africans not to panic. We are working hard to make this life-saving treatment for snake bites available to everyone, including animals, regardless of location. The NHLS management is taking this matter very seriously and is working hard to resolve it.
National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS)