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What we know about SA’s Covid-19 vaccination strategy

Photograph: AFP

Photograph: AFP

Published Jan 15, 2021


CAPE TOWN - As countries across the world inoculate millions of its citizens, South Africa awaits the arrival of the vaccine to its shores.

Israel has vaccinated around 22% of its population which makes it the country with the highest vaccination rate in the world.

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While South Africa’s vaccine rollout strategy is being fleshed out, there are some things we know about potentially how the vaccination drive is due to unfold.

How many doses are needed in South Africa?

All the top vaccine options, such as Oxford–AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, require two doses of at least 21 days apart. The country’s population stands at more than 59 million, which means South Africa will need to procure more than 118 million vaccine doses if it is to vaccinate the entire population.

The Health Department aims to vaccinate around 40 million people by the end of the year, equating to around 67% of the population. If the target is met, top scientists say the country would have achieved population immunity.

If 40 million people are to be vaccinated by year end, this means South Africa would need to acquire 80 million doses.

Where are the doses coming from?

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  • 1.5 million: In the beginning of this month, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize confirmed that the country would be receiving a million doses this month, followed by 500 000 doses next month, from the Serum Institute of India. This biotech company is producing the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.
  • 20 million: President Cyril Ramaphosa said, in an address to the nation earlier this week, that the country secured 20 million doses of the vaccine with a substantial amount being delivered in the first half of the year. It is unclear where the batch is coming from.
  • A portion of 270 million: As AU chair, Ramaphosa announced that a provisional 270 million vaccine doses were secured for the continent from manufacturers for member states to supplement the Covax programme. The president said details will soon be announced about how many South Africa will receive the vaccine.

Ramaphosa said South Africa’s vaccine strategy was well under way.

“As we work to secure the supply of sufficient doses in the midst of huge global demand, we are doing and will continue to do everything that’s possible to ensure that the process is both transparent, and it’s handled most effectively and efficiently, and that information is made available to South Africans,”

How are the doses allocated?

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In the beginning of the year, the Department of Health revealed the country’s three-phased Covid-19 vaccine rollout strategy:

  • 1.2 million front line and health-care workers will be vaccinated in phase one.
  • 16 million essential workers, institutionalised persons, and the elderly in phase two.
  • 22.5 million of the remaining adult population in phase three.

Where will people be vaccinated?

Countries such as the US and the UK are administering the vaccine in medical facilities but have also decided to give the shots outside the facilities.

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One such example is in the US where stadiums and baseball parks are being repurposed as venues to administer the Covid-19 vaccine, as reported by NBC News.

In South Africa, the vaccine will be delivered using three platforms during phase one:

  • Work-based programmes: This is ideal for hospital staff, especially at district level private and public hospitals.
  • Outreach-based programmes using mobile teams moving between facilities: Ideal for primary health-care providers, community health workers, and private medical centres.
  • Vaccination centres, particularly in remote areas: Ideal for independent health-care workers.


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