Prof Salim Abdool Karim has been vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus. Picture: Se-Anne Rall
Prof Salim Abdool Karim has been vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus. Picture: Se-Anne Rall

SA needs to vaccinate 150 000 per day to reach herd immunity target by end of year

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Mar 17, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG –Just 19 272 healthcare workers have been vaccinated in the past five days, meaning in the past five days, the country has vaccinated only about 3855 people on average per day.

South Africa has an ambitious target of vaccination two-thirds of the population before the end of the year.

Media Hack Collective’s new data visualisation tool shows that South Africa will need to vaccinate over 150 000 per day to achieve its target.

At the current rate, at an average of about 6000 vaccinations per day, it would take the country 18 years, one month and three days to achieve herd immunity.

The Department of Health has previously clarified that the slow rate of the vaccination rollout was due to the fact that the first phase of the rollout was being carried out as part of a study, which has strict protocols that need to be adhered to.

The Health Department’s director-general, Dr Anban Pillay, who spoke earlier this month, said 11.6 million vaccine doses would be rolled out during Phase 2 commencing in May.

He said 2.5 million vaccine doses were reserved for essential workers, 1.1 million for people in congregate settings, five million for people over the age of 60, and eight million for people over 18 with comorbidities. Who was deemed an essential worker had yet to be clearly defined and was a matter that Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and his ministerial advisory committee were vested with.

During Phase 3, everybody would be free to get vaccinated.

Speaking to IOL on Wednesday, Alastair Otter, the co-founder of the Media Hack Collectives, who created the data visualisation calculator for SA, said he created it out of concern.

“We have been tracking Covid, and we are familiar with the numbers.

“When I looked at the number of vaccinations we have done, it didn't feel like an awful lot, so with my bad maths, I did a rough estimate about how long it would take to get us herd immunity at the current rate and it got me to about 20 years,” he said.

Otter said he decided to do the data visualisation vaccine calculator when he spoke to a few people and realised none of them knew at what rate vaccinations needed to take place to achieve herd immunity.

He said even though he was aware that vaccinations were taking place under the climate of a trial of study, he felt that the visualiser was the best way to demonstrate the urgency of the vaccination rollout question.

“We should be concerned about the inconsistency around the vaccination numbers and wonder why.

“There seems to be an erratic nature which needs to be smoothed out if we want to achieve vaccination of two-thirds of the population by the end of the year, which is roughly around 150k per day.

“But the reality is that we have taken a month to vaccinate 150 000 health workers, but now we need to do vaccinate 150 000 people every day now,” he said.

The private sector indicated earlier this month that they had enough capacity to administer 200 000 vaccinations per day.

Stavros Nicolaou, of Business 4 South Africa, said in early March that the private sector had demonstrated capacity to fulfil vaccination programmes in the past, including the administration of 1.3 million flu vaccine doses in a five to six week period last year.

He said this was on top of over 14 million vaccine doses that were administered by the country annually.

Nicolaou said the private sector could administer 200 000 daily vaccine targets and said the use of mobile clinics, stadiums and town halls was another avenue that could be looked at to ensure that the country had enough capacity.

Otter said if the vaccination was rolled out as a public-private partnership, he was confident the target could be reached.

“Getting the private sector involved is essential. We need to get as many people involved to reach the target.

“The big concern is that if we don't, what does it mean for South Africa. We know that some African countries are not even near starting their vaccination programmes.

“I do think if we bring in the private sector, we can certainly do this,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pillay said he expected 1.2 million health workers to be vaccinated by mid-April. As of mid-March, just 157 000 health workers have been vaccinated.

South Africa will rollout its mass vaccination programme with Johnson&Johnson and Pfizer vaccines.


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