Covid-19 vaccinations only expected in SA by mid-2021, says health ministry

Local experts have voiced concerns that the South African government has been too quiet about plans to buy Covid-19 vaccines and manage vaccination programs in the country. Amid a flurry of global announcements, after the UK approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine for use, the South African government has finally shared details of its own plans – which accounts for about 10% of the country’s population. According to experts, a vaccination rate of 60% to 70%  is needed to achieve herd immunity. – Melani Nathan

South Africa expects first Covid-19 virus vaccine delivery by mid-2021

By Felix Njini

(Bloomberg) — South Africa will probably take its first delivery of coronavirus vaccines by the middle of next year after agreeing on an initial payment, the health ministry said.

The government will take delivery of the vaccines under the Covax initiative that will cover about 10% of the population after Solidarity Fund, a charity organization, agreed to make an initial payment of about R327m ($22m), the ministry said in a statement. The total cost of the vaccines could amount to more than R2bn.

The World Health Organization-backed Covax initiative aspires to give lower-income countries the same access to vaccines as wealthier nations.

“Our understanding from the production estimates we have been provided with at this stage is that we should expect to receive the first batch of stock in quarter two of 2021,” the ministry said.

Read also:Covid-19 vaccines coming soon, but ‘Tis the season to be cautious’ everywhere – expert explains

South Africa is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases in some districts just as millions of people prepare to travel to their home towns and holiday destinations during the festive season. President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday reintroduced restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the virus in Nelson Mandela Bay, the nation’s sixth-largest city, with a population of 1.3 million people.

About 805,804 people have been diagnosed with the disease in South Africa so far and 21,963 have died, according to government figures. On Friday, 4,932 new cases were detected, Zweli Mkhize, the health minister said.

Read also: Covid-19 vaccine: why it’s still better than natural immunity against a deadly virus

The government is also considering buying vaccines from other potential producers, including Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, AstraZeneca and the Pfizer and BioNtech partnership. It needs to ensure it has funds and resources for the distribution, storage and administration of the vaccines, the ministry said.

“While the Covax facility is our favored vehicle for accessing vaccines, we will always explore all options to ensure that the process of rolling out vaccines is safe and cost-effective,” it said.

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