Sunday, 03 January 2021 20:18

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize outlined South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout strategy in a public address this evening, as the country deals with a second wave of the virus.

"We are targeting a minimum of 67% of the population to achieve herd immunity and the approach will be a phased rollout of the vaccine beginning with the most vulnerable in our population, "the minister said.

Mkhize said that the government is mindful of the urgency of obtaining a vaccine.

"We have set up structures to expedite financing, sourcing and procurement and therefore the issue of the vaccine strategy will get undivided attention from the department and government."

"We have set up structures to expedite financing, sourcing and procurement and therefore the issue of the vaccine strategy will get undivided attention from the department and government."

He said that the only way to deal with a second wave is to develop herd immunity through vaccination.

"The vaccines will need to be made available quickly so that most of our citizens are covered by the end of the first year of rollout – this year, "the minister said.

"Having secured 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 2021 but, more importantly, we are making efforts to obtain vaccines much earlier, hopefully as early as February 2021, "he said.

The priority of the vaccine rollout will begin with healthcare workers, the elderly and those with co-morbidities.

"By the end of phase 3: 40,350,000 citizens will have been immunized which is equivalent to approximately 67.25% of the population as we have indicated," the minister said.

Government said it it will need to raise the funds to deal with the remainder of the population. Mkhize said that the R1.8 billion set aside for vaccinations has already been used. The minister said that the government has approached the Solidarity Fund to assist in the procurement process.

Mkhize said: “To optimize the availability of stock for ourselves we are negotiating with all the manufacturers and pursuing those who are indicating appetite to make vaccines available sooner.

"We are in sensitive discussions. I have been involved in some of these discussions and can mention a few of them, Astra Zeneca, Moderna, etc."

Additionally, the minister said that the government has embarked on public-private partnerships "with very good outcomes and we have approached medical aids to be part of the co-financing".

"The process is now at a stage where the Council for Medical Schemes has engaged various medical schemes and I have signed amendments of regulations to allow for vaccines and other therapeutics to be part of the prescribed minimum benefits," he said.

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE have offered to supply Africa with 50 million Covid-19 vaccines for health workers between March and the end of this year, the presidency said.