THE government is aiming to vaccinate 67% of the country’s population against Covid-19 to achieve herd immunity, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has said.
This equates to just over 40 million people.
South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout strategy was unveiled during a public online briefing headed by Mkhize.
“We knew early on that the only way to fight Covid-19 would be to achieve herd immunity through vaccination,” the minister said.
Ministerial Advisory Committee member Barry Schoub said that herd immunity would be used to slow down the rate of transmission of the virus.
“Herd immunity is basically the threshold of the number of people needed in a population to achieve immunity toward the virus. We have calculated the 67% based on the reproductive rate of the virus,” said Schoub.
First in the queue would be frontline health workers as they were the most important sector in the fight against Covid-19, Mkhize said.
The groups that would get access to the vaccine first are as follows:
* Healthcare workers: Health professionals, nurses, general health workers, care home workers, selected laboratory workers, and traditional healers. Target population: 1 250 000
* Essential workers: This group includes police officers, miners, and workers in the security, retail food, funeral, travel, banking, and essential municipal and Home Affairs services. Target population: 2 500 000
* Persons with comorbidities and at risk for morbidity and mortality: These include persons 60 years and older, persons living with HIV, tuberculosis, diabetics, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, renal disease, obesity. Target population: 13 000 000
* Persons in congregate or overcrowded settings: This group includes persons in prison, detention centres, shelters, and care homes. In addition, people working in the hospitality and tourism industry, and educational institutions are also at risk. Target population: 1 100 000
* Persons younger than 18 years. Target population: 22 500 000
“This means that by the end of phase 3, 40 350 000 citizens will have been immunised which is equivalent to approximately 67.25% of the population,” Mkhize said.
Rollout looked set to start at the beginning of the second quarter but they were in talks to try to get the vaccine here faster, “perhaps by February”.
“We are very mindful of the urgency. We all have a personal anxiety. We want to know at which point can we say we are safe from this pandemic. We are in bilateral talks to see how we can get the vaccine here faster, perhaps by February,” Mkhize said on Sunday.
He said that discussions have been held in relation to vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
Talks have also been held about vaccines from Russia and China.
South Africa is one of around 200 countries who have joined the pooled procurement for the coronavirus vaccine, commonly known as COVAX, co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Solidarity Fund has already made a prepayment of more than R283 million towards the acquisition of the vaccine.
Mkhize said on Sunday that the government would be using a three-pronged approach to make up the rest of the funding, which would include:
- The Solidarity Fund
- Medical Aid schemes
- Private sector funding
IOL and Reuters