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SA vs the world: how other countries are implementing Covid-19 vaccination drive

Published Jan 14, 2021


Cape Town - In less than a year after the first Covid-19 outbreak, scientists have been able to develop several approved and ready-to-administer vaccines that will protect people against the virus.

Now that a vaccine has been developed the next challenge will be the logistical task to distribute the shots and make them accessible to countries and people in all parts of the world.

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Which vaccines are available?

Vaccines help protect you by creating an antibody and teaching the immune system to recognise and mount a defence against the virus.

Scientists and researchers have developed more than 200 Covid-19 vaccines, but only six have been approved for distribution.

The vaccines available are:

  1. Pfizer–BioNTech (US)
  2. Oxford–AstraZeneca (UK)
  3. Moderna (US)
  4. Sputnik V (Russia)
  5. Sinopharm (China)
  6. CoronaVac (China)

Which countries have started their Covid-19 vaccine roll-out?

According to Our World in Data, over 50 countries have started their vaccine roll-outs.

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At the beginning of last month, the UK became the first country in the world to approve and begin administering the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to its citizens. The UK was soon followed by Canada and the US.

Leading the race in terms of vaccine distribution is the US with 9.33 million vaccines, followed by China with 9 million, and the UK with 2.84 million doses administered.

What is a country’s vaccination rate?

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While there are clear front-runners in terms of vaccination distribution, Israel has the highest vaccination rate in the world with close to one in five people having received a dose, or 22 out of 100 people.

A country’s vaccination rate calculates the percentage of people within the population who have received the shot. Israel has a population of 9 million and has vaccinated over to 1.9 million people.

The United Arab Emirates has administered 13 people per 100 in its population, followed by Bahrain with 5 per hundred, and the UK with four per hundred.

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How are other countries administering the vaccines?

Several countries are making use of large venues for their vaccination drives including sports stadiums, and convention centres to vaccinate as many people as possible.

Most countries with access to the vaccines are only vaccinating health-care workers, at-risk groups and the elderly at medical facilities and pharmacies.

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) made it clear on its website that once the at risk groups have received their shots, a letter will be sent to the remaining citizens so they can book their vaccination appointments online.

Meanwhile, in the US, major NFL stadiums and baseball parks across the country are being repurposed as venues to administer the Covid-19 vaccine, as reported by NBC News.

In Barcelona, Spain, 37-year-old paediatrician, Dr Jessica Martens Penny, says the country started with immunization at the end of December and that people in old age homes and staff were the first to receive the shots. Hospitals and clinics started administering the vaccine to staff last week.

Penny, who was born in South Africa but has lived in Spain for over 20 years, received the vaccine yesterday and likened her experience to a flu shot.

“The vaccine is administered in the same centre we work in, by a trained nurse in administering the vaccine, given that it has to be prepared and administered very specifically. It's all covered by social security, not medical aids at all,” she said.

Dr. Jessica Martens Penny, received the Covid-19 vaccine yesterday at her place of work in Barcelona, Spain.

Where is South Africa in their vaccine rollout plan?

The Department of Health revealed the country’s three-phased Covid-19 vaccine roll-out strategy which was echoed by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this week. The government is aiming to kick-off the vaccination distribution by April.

About 40 million South Africans or 67% of the population are set to receive the jab and scientists estimate that these figures will probably lead us to population immunity.

The first phase is acquiring the vaccine through the World Health Organisation’s Covax facility, which will supply vaccine doses for about 10% of the South African population.

“We have been advised that we should expect the vaccines in the second quarter of 2021. We have been in constant contact with Covax who have advised us that they are working very hard to bring the batches releases forward to quarter one,” said the department.

Phase two of the strategy involves prioritising front-line health-workers, essential workers including teachers, police, people in institutions such as old age homes and prisons, as well as those over 60 and people with morbidities.

Vaccinating the remaining population of about 22 million people will conclude phase three.

In his address to the nation, Ramaphosa said: “We will administer vaccinations through hospitals, clinics, outreach services and mobile clinics, and private settings such as doctor’s offices, pharmacies and work places”.

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