Cape Town - South Africans will not be able to import Covid-19 vaccines in their personal capacity even if they have the means to do so. This is according to the Health Ministry’s Dr Anban Pillay.
Pillay was responding to a question raised during the department’s vaccine roll out strategy briefing held on Sunday.
“As a country we will buy stock for the entire country. I don’t think it will be possible for individuals to import the vaccine. This is based on our discussions with manufacturers. They have indicated to us that they will only deal with governments, given the scale and logistics associated with the virus,” said Pillay
He added that manufacturers had indicated they are not considering “small batch” orders for the vaccine.
Earlier in the briefing, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said they were targeting the vaccination of 67% of South Africans against Covid-19 to achieve herd immunity. This equates to just over 40 million people.
“We knew early on that the only way to fight Covid-19 would be to achieve herd immunity through vaccination,” said Mkhize.
The groups that will 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.
* Persons with co-morbidities 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, etc.
* 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.
* 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.
Mkhize said rollout looked set to start at the beginning of the second quarter but they were in talks to try and 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).
Mkhize said government would be using a three-pronged approach to fund vaccines which would include:
- The Solidarity Fund
- Medical Aid schemes
- Private sector funding
The Solidarity Fund has already made a prepayment of more than R283 million towards the acquisition of the vaccine.
IOL and Reuters