Here is South Africa’s vaccine strategy in a nutshell
South Africa is in the endgame. 10 months into the country’s fight against the coronavirus (Covid-19) that has since morphed into a lethal pathogen, and we finally have some sense of direction in the Department of Health’s vaccine strategy.
Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize released a statement, on Sunday, detailing the phases of the vaccine rollout strategy. At a point in our war with an unseen enemy, it seems the only hope for victory and saving millions of lives is herd immunity.
“We are targeting [a] minimum of 67% of the population to achieve herd immunity and the approach will be a phased rollout of the vaccine beginning with the most vulnerable in our population,” he said.
This is South Africa’s vaccine strategy
To break this down, Mkhize confirmed that the plan of action, developed with assistance from members of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, is to make vaccines available for 40 350 000 citizens.
This is how the department plans to phase out the distribution of the vaccine:
High priority will be given to frontline healthcare workers, which makes up 1 250 000 of South Africa’s population. It will be mandatory for every healthcare employee to take the first wave of vaccines that will be shipped in the coming months.
Essential workers. Target population: 2 500 000
Persons in congregate settings. Target population: 1 100 000
Persons >60 years. Target population: 5 000 000
Persons >18 years with co-morbidities. Target population: 8 000 000
Other persons >18 years. Target population: 22,500,000
Herd community is the only answer to beating Covid-19
Mkhize and the government have placed all bets on the herd immunity approach being the only answer to getting rid of Covid-19. The logic behind this is, if the majority of the South African population is vaccinated and becomes immune to the virus, it will be near impossible to transmit it. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune.
Of course, all of this largely depends on the country’s ability to secure enough vaccines to immunise two-thirds of the population. Right now, there is no great deal of certainty that this will be achieved anytime soon.
When will SA get the vaccine?
Mkhize remains hopeful, however. The minister confirmed that they are in talks with a number of vaccine manufacturers to secure large doses as soon as February 2021.
Thus far, South Africa has secured enough doses from the COVAX vaccine to immunise 10% of the population. This shipment, he confirmed, is expected to arrive in our country at the start of the second quarter (from April 2021).
“To optimize availability of stock for ourselves we are negotiating with all the manufacturers and pursuing those who are indicating appetite to make vaccines available sooner,” he said