A deal struck with the Serum Institute of India (SII) will see South Africa get a million Covid-19 vaccine doses before the end of January, Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize announced on Thursday. A further 500,000 doses are due in February.
An estimated 1.25 million public and private frontline healthcare workers will be first in line to receive the vaccine, said Mkhize.
“As recently as yesterday, our teams from the National Department of Health and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) were fine-tuning and aligning all the regulations processes to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays or regulatory impediments to activate this rollout,” read his prepared statement.
The announcement comes after the state was lambasted for failing to secure vaccine deals with manufacturers beyond relying on the Covax initiative that is intended to ensure poor countries get access to vaccines.
Dozens of countries, both rich and poor, have already begun mass vaccination programmes, including the US, Italy and Saudi Arabia.
Mkhize said acquisition of the vaccine had been negotiated directly by the Department of Health, with no private parties involved.
“This strengthens the credibility of the process as all the negotiations and payment issues are managed directly by government with the manufacturer.”
The government is now in the process of engaging all relevant stakeholders to ensure the “efficient and effective” rollout of the vaccine for health workers.
In a briefing on 3 January, Mkhize said government departments were bound by non-disclosure agreements which at that stage barred them from divulging information about negotiations for vaccine acquisition.
At that briefing he also announced a three-phase vaccine rollout strategy, in which phase one would prioritise frontline healthcare workers, phase two would target 16 million people who included essential service workers, people with comorbidities and the elderly, while phase three would focus on a further 22 million people.
It is believed South Africa needs 67% of the population vaccinated (40.3 million) in order to achieve herd immunity from the virus.
To date, South Africa has recorded 31,368 deaths as the second wave of infections rages on. DM
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