Ramaphosa in bid to speed-up roll-out
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PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa said yesterday that the government was in discussions with other Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers in a bid to boost the country's slow inoculation roll-out.
This comes as the scheduled delivery of 31 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines has been delayed due to regulatory issues related to lack of adherence to proper standards at a manufacturing plant in the US.
Ramaphosa said that some of these manufacturers were in the process of seeking the necessary approvals from South Africa's health products authority.
The president, however, emphasised that the government had secured enough vaccines to reach all adults in the country, which is around 40 million people.
“We are waiting for these issues to be resolved before the first batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines can be released from the facility in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape,” Ramaphosa said.
“While this is a challenge that has affected the supply of vaccines for many countries and not just in our country, we are in constant contact with the relevant authorities to ensure that our doses can be released as soon as possible.”
He did not mention whether these manufacturers included Russia's Sputnik V and China's Sinovac vaccines as SA Health Products Regulatory Authority was previously reportedly considering them.
South Africa's vaccination programme has seen a total of more than 960 000 people receiving vaccine doses.
This includes 480 000 healthcare workers receiving the J&J vaccine and another 480 000 people from the public receiving the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Around 1.3 million Pfizer doses have already been distributed and the next 636 000 doses arrived last night, with weekly deliveries of an equivalent volume until end June totalling 2.5 million.
Last night, Ramaphosa announced that the government had decided to place the country back to an “adjusted level 2 lockdown” as Covid-19 cases were on the rise in the past 14 days.
He said the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 has therefore recommended that the country urgently implement further restrictions to limit the increase in infections.
At least four provinces were already experiencing the third wave as Covid19 infections were averaging 3 745 cases a day.
Ramaphosa said it may only be a matter of time before the country as a whole will have entered a third wave.
“While the country is headed towards a third wave of infections, we do not yet know how severe this wave will be or for how long it will last, he said.
“Delaying the spread of the virus is especially important now to allow as many people as possible to be vaccinated before the third wave reaches its peak.”
Old Mutual Investments chief economist Johann Els the government's decision to move the country to an adjusted level 2 lockdown was a prudent one and would have minimal impact on the economy.
Els said this move would not affect his economic growth forecast of 5 percent gross domestic product this year.
“We might have stricter restrictions coming in a few weeks, but that is built in my baseline case for economic growth of 5 percent this year,” Els said.
“The slow vaccination roll-out programme is a risk we will have to look into, but a more savvy investor will be aware that the economy is doing better now than it was last year.”
Els also said that loadshedding was less of a risk to economic outlook now than it was two or three years ago as Eskom was making progress in the maintenance of its ageing fleet.