Vaccine rollout a game changer, says Ramaphosa
PORT ELIZABETH – With Covid-19 infections reaching alarming rates since the beginning of the new year, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday announced that the alert level three would remain in place, with few alterations to regulations.
With infections reaching almost 190 000 since the start of 2021, the president said that it was important to comply with the protocols that had been in place since the beginning of the pandemic – hand washing, wearing masks and physical distancing.
Ramaphosa said that achieving immunity was one of the key pillars of charting “a path to recovery”.
“We have always said that an effective vaccine will be a game changer,” the president said, adding that it was one of the most effective ways of controlling the pandemic.
Ramaphosa said that the comprehensive vaccination strategy to reach all parts of the country “will be the largest and most complex logistical undertaking in our country’s history”.
Discovery Health said that the sector had ring-fenced at least R7 billion to ensure that its members received the #vaccine as soon as it was made available in South Africa.@busrep #COVID19 https://t.co/ZIGlQOw3NO— IOL News (@IOL) January 12, 2021
He said that when a sizeable section of the population had reached “herd mentality” – 67 percent or 40 million South Africans – it would render enough people immune to the virus to allow for “indirect protection of those who were not immune and bring the spread of the disease under control.
The first part of the strategy is acquiring the vaccine, "through the World Health Organisation’s COVAX facility, through the African Union’s vaccine initiative and through direct engagements with vaccine manufacturers“, he said.
Ramaphosa said that South Africa had secured 20 million doses to be delivered in the first half of the year.
The second part of the strategy, had three phases, he said, with phase 1 prioritising 1.2 million front line health workers as recipients of the vaccine. In phase two, essential workers including teachers, police, and municipal workers. People in institutions such as old age homes and prisons, as well as those over 60 and people with morbidities would also be prioritised, the president said.
Phase three would see the remaining adult population of about 22 million people receive vaccinations.
The third part of the strategy would be distribution throughout the country, ensuring that all those identified would be administered the vaccine, he said.
Taking a hardline on people spreading misinformation about the vaccine, Ramaphosa called for unity in a common cause, to eradicate the virus.
“There are still some in our country who are sceptical about vaccines, and there is much disinformation and conspiracy theories being spread about the Covid-19 vaccines,” Ramaphosa said.
“Yet vaccines have been used to eradicate diseases such as small pox and polio.
“Every vaccine that will be used in our programme will have to be approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, which applies stringent scientific standards to ensure the safety and efficacy of any drug or treatment he said.
The president again spoke out against gender-based violence as the second pandemic in South Africa, saying “we must never lose sight of the need to act urgently and decisively to end the violence that men perpetrate against women and children”.
He said there were plans to implement social and behavioural change, including through government and civil society engagements and initiatives of religious bodies.
In conclusion, Ramaphosa said “that the coronavirus storm is far fiercer and more destructive than any we have known before. We are now in the centre of the storm.
“We do not know how much longer it will last or how much worse it will get. But we know what to do to weather the storm.
“We need to act with a common purpose, knowing that what we each do is important for ourselves, our families, our communities and our society.
“If we work together as we have done over these any months, if we maintain our resolve, we will realise the new year that we all so dearly hope for.”
– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Naomi Mackay