Durban – South Africa's health ministry said on Thursday the country would get 1.5 million vaccines from the Serum Institute of India (SII), with a million coming in January and the remainder the following month.
The ministry added it was working with the country's health regulator SAHPRA to ensure there were no delays with the rollout of the vaccines.
"We are happy that the SII/ Astra Zeneca vaccine has already been approved by various regulators and is being rolled out in other countries. Therefore, as part of expediting the regulatory process, SAHPRA is applying reliance on that regulatory work.
“We also want to inform the public that the acquisition has been done directly by the Department of Health. This strengthens the credibility of the process as all the negotiations and payment issues are managed directly by government with the manufacturer. We will now be engaging all relevant stakeholders in order to ensure the efficient and effective roll out of the vaccine for our health workers," Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said.
He reiterated that in an earlier presentation, it was stated that an estimated 1.25 million health care workers both from the public and private sector be prioritised.
"We urge the public to be patient with us as we continue to engage manufacturers. Our commitment remains to save and protect the lives of our people. We will not neglect our responsibility to protect lives and also fight this pandemic. We therefore call on all South Africans, members of the public, political parties, business, labour, NGOs and community leaders and members to work with us as we start this historic process," Mkhize said.
According to its Covid-19 vaccine rollout strategy, government is aiming to vaccinate 67% of the country’s population against Covid-19 to achieve herd immunity.
This equates to just over 40 million people.
Ministerial Advisory Committee member Barry Schoub has previously said 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.
According to the rollout strategy, the groups that would get access to the vaccine first are:
* 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
More than 20 000 South Africans tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, taking the country's cumulative count to 1 149 591.
Mkhize confirmed 21 832 new cases and 844 deaths were confirmed on Wednesday, with the 452 deaths reported from the Eastern Cape coming as a result of data reconciliation dating between May and November 2020.
The total number of Covid-19 related deaths in South Africa now stands at 31 368.
IOL and Reuters