President Cyril Ramaphosa sought to solicit hope in his address tonight by assuring the public that the arrival of the first batch of Covid-19 vaccine doses symbolises the possibility of turning the tide against the pandemic.
Ramaphosa gave his address on Monday night hours after the first batch of 1 million Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses landed in the country from the Serum Institute of India.
The vaccines will be administered to the country’s 1.5 million health-care workers – who form part of the government’s phase one vaccination strategy.
The vaccine doses were transported to the National Control Laboratory facility in Bloemfontein where they will undergo a quality check which can take 10 to 14 days.
They will then be distributed across the country, by BioVac, to ensure that all healthcare workers are vaccinated. Health departments across all nine provinces will be responsible for running their individual vaccination distribution strategies. Ramaphosa said 200 facilities across the country have been identified as distribution centres.
Ramaphosa reiterated that the plan was to see that 67% of the country’s population was vaccinated to ensure herd immunity. He said no foreign citizens would be excluded from being vaccinated.
On other vaccine acquisitions, Ramaphosa said another 500 000 Covishield vaccine doses from India were expected to arrive by the end of the month.
He said other pharmaceutical companies had also indicated a commitment to supplying the country. A total of 12 million doses will be sourced from the World Health Organization’s Covax scheme, and another 9 million from Johnson & Johnson will arrive in the second quarter along with 20 million doses from Pfizer.
SA is also in line to source vaccines from the African Union (AU) acquisition mission which has so far sourced 1 billion doses for the continent, Ramaphosa said.
Telecommunications giant MTN has also donated $29 million (R437m) which will be used to acquire more than 5 million vaccine doses. These will also benefit the country’s SADC neighbours, Ramaphosa said.
The president was at pains to explain that no one would be forced to take the vaccine, but he did encourage people to get vaccinated. He said the vaccines had undergone rigorous testing and trials which proved their efficacy.
The second phase of the vaccination drive will focus on essential workers and people over 60. The third stage will focus on the rest of the adult population.