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SA to get firm date on delivery of vaccine by early January, experts say

However, it will only treat 10% of the country's 58 million people

SA expects to receive the Covax vaccine by the second quarter of 2021. File photo.
SA expects to receive the Covax vaccine by the second quarter of 2021. File photo.
Image: Reuters/Edgard Garrido

SA will know in the first few days of January when it will receive a Covid-19 vaccine, a senior health ministry official said on Thursday.

The country is among about 200 which have joined the pooled procurement for the coronavirus vaccine, commonly known as Covax, co-led by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

SA, which accounts for more than a third of Africa's Covid-19 cases, has been battling a surge in cases since the end of November, as a new variant, 501.V2, has been infecting younger people, unlike the first wave, the government said.

"The first date [of vaccine delivery] has not been communicated, but by early January they would have a firm date," Dr Anban Pillay, deputy director-general of the department of health, told the SABC.

SA expects to receive the Covax vaccine by the second quarter of 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday. The country's Solidarity Fund has made the initial R283m payment to the facility, he added.

The Covax alliance said on December 18 that the first deliveries were due in early 2021, without giving a specific date.

SA reported a record 17,710 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, surpassing the previous high of about 14,500 set several days ago and owing to the new variant, which is said to be more contagious.

Daily deaths are averaging close to 500.

The Covax vaccine can treat only 10% of the country's 58-million population, Prof Barry Schoub, chairperson of the ministerial advisory committee on coronavirus vaccine development, told the channel.

The distribution of the vaccine will happen over a few tranches and it will take months to vaccinate 10% of the populace, he said.

The priority will be to vaccinate front-line health-care workers, followed by elderly people and those in institutions such as jails, Schoub said.

The government is talking to other manufacturers to source a vaccine for rest of the population, Pillay added.


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