With South Africa having recorded over 1.5 million cases of the Coronavirus, with 52 000 leading to deaths, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country was making progress in its vaccination programme.
“Our national vaccination programme has commenced and will be gaining momentum,” President Ramaphosa said on Tuesday evening during a national address to the nation on the developments in the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The country began its vaccination programme mid-February with Phase 1 focusing on inoculating health workers.
“This phase is on track to be completed within three months. More than 250 000 health workers have to date received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as part of the Sisonke trial,” said the President.
He said the country had secured 11 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is known to be effective against the dominant variants in the country.
“We have secured a further 20 million doses and are finalising the agreement with Johnson & Johnson. We are also finalising an agreement for 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses. Together, this supply of vaccines will this will provide us with enough doses to vaccinate 41 million people,” he said.
He said further announcements will be made once negotiations were concluded.
“We are also in various stages of negotiations with the manufacturers of other vaccines such as Sinovac, Sinopharm and Sputnik V. Some of these manufacturers in the final stages of the approval process for use of the vaccines in South Africa,” he said.
In addition to the vaccine doses, President Ramaphosa said government would directly receive its allocation of vaccine doses directly through its agreements with manufacturers from the African Union initiative. This was initiative established when South Africa held the Chairship of the African Union.
Although there have been delays in securing vaccine supplies, he said government was still confident in achieving its vaccination targets.
The country’s Phase 2 was scheduled to start in mid-May, with registration set to start next month.
He said: “We believe that sufficient volumes from manufacturers will be arriving in the quantities as agreed in terms of our agreements with them. Under Phase 2 we hope to vaccinate more of our people over six months”.
In line with international best practice, government will in the phase prioritise those at the highest risk of hospitalisation and death, such as people over 60 and people living with co-morbidities.
“To ensure that we have supporting infrastructure over 2 000 vaccination sites have been identified across the country. These include general practitioners’ rooms, community clinics and pharmacies, retail outlets and in some instances, larger facilities like stadiums and conference centres,” he said.
The President said government has established an Electronic Vaccination Data System to manage the vaccine rollout and direct people towards vaccination sites closest to where they live.
“This system will allow you to register, receive an appointment date and site, and receive a digital certificate or a hard copy confirming your vaccination status once vaccinated.
“Everyone that will be vaccinated will have to be registered on the system first, and you will be invited to register once you become eligible,” the President said.