The South African government said it plans to vaccinate about 50 million people representing 67% of its population before the end of the current year. The info was given on January 3 by the health minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize during a press conference on the national vaccine rollout strategy.
The official said the three-phase campaign will first focus on frontline health workers. For this part of the population, the country plans to vaccinate 1,250,000 people. Phase II targets essential workers, people in crowded places, people over 60 years of age, and people over 18 years of age with co-morbidities. The goal is to reach 16,600,000 people. Finally, the third phase will target additional people over 18 years of age, representing a population of 22,500,000 people.
“At this stage, we have secured the doses that will be acquired through Covax which will ensure we immunize 10% of the population through this mechanism […] Having secured vaccine for 10% of the population, we have embarked on other efforts to get the rest of the 57% of the population to be targeted by the end of 2021,” the minister explained.
“More importantly, we are making efforts to obtain vaccines much earlier, hopefully as soon as February 2021. This will very much depend on the success of bilateral negotiations we are holding with companies,” he added.
To finance the campaign, the South African government is betting on help from the private sector as well as the country’s key health insurers, via a solidarity fund that provides a fundraising platform for accelerated and controlled purchase procedures.
Also, to maximize the availability of vaccine stocks for the country, the government is negotiating with all manufacturers, including Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, as well as Russian and Chinese laboratories.
“We are on sensitive discussions and at this stage are bound by Non-Disclosure Agreements but we will make announcements as soon as negotiations are concluded,” the Minister said.
South Africa is the country most affected by the covid-19 pandemic on the African continent with more than one million cases to date and 30,000 deaths. Recently, a new variant of the virus has emerged in the country and is reported to be 50% more contagious.