Government is hoping that the rate of inoculation will increase from April as more vaccination doses are expected to arrive in the country this month.
Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, said South Africa is expecting an extra 500 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines between now and the end of March.
Also, about three million doses will arrive between April and June, while the remaining jabs will follow in the next two quarters of the year.
According to the Minister, the country is also anticipating about 600 000 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to land in South Africa before the end of March.
“Between five and seven million are expected to arrive in April to June and after that, we should get more,” he told the National Press Club (NPC) on Thursday.
“Again, with Pfizer, we still need to sign the first agreement and confirm the second agreement,” he said, adding that the country has 20 million from the pharmaceutical company.
In addition, he announced that the COVAX facility will also be shipping about 600 000 jabs to the country.
Meanwhile, government is still finalising discussions with Russia’s Sputnik V, which is currently undergoing the process of registration locally and China’s Sinopharm.
In the meantime, he said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has demonstrated to have the most effective action against the 501Y.V2 variant, first discovered in South Africa.
“The others such as Pfizer and Moderna have also demonstrated some degree of activity. However, that was demonstrated in a lab setting and not a clinical trial, so in the process are some of the considerations that we take into account as we go through the selection of vaccines.”
He has assured South Africans that the two vaccines, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer are the best to deal with 501Y.V2.
Meanwhile, he said the Oxford-AstraZeneca that was ordered from the Serum Institute of India (SII) is almost ready to be transported to the African Union (AU) countries.
South Africa suspended the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after new studies released showing that it is less effective against the mutated 501Y.V2.
“Discussions have happened and the AU will buy it at the same cost South Africa bought the doses from SII.”
He said the legal team is finalising an agreement to be released to various countries in the continent.
“We haven’t used any of it and will not use any immediately until we get clear guidance from our scientists about what is the best way of utilising AstraZeneca. The number of these countries don’t have this variant and are free to utilise the AstraZeneca and it is still effective in a number of countries.”
Vaccination is not compulsory
The Minister reiterated that no one will be forced to take the vaccine.
“It’s not compulsory. But you’re advised that it’s in your best interest to take the vaccine.”
He said the scepticism from people often stems from safety concerns.
“That’s why the President felt he needed to be at the forefront. That’s why I and a number of other leaders have participated to make sure that the issues of safety get taken out of the way.”
He acknowledged that because COVID-19 is new, some citizens may battle to distinguish between facts and fake news.
“Companies should not force anyone to take the vaccine but explain to them that in fact, it’s in their best interest to be able to do so. However, if someone decides not to take the vaccine I think all you can do is to continue to persuade them.”
For instance, he said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine protects the individual that even if they are exposed to infection, they will not get very sick.
“Like in the Johnson & Johnson, it has shown to reduce mild, moderate and severe diseases and reduces hospitalisation and death.”
However, once again, he said no one should be coerced.