Zweli Mkhize spells out SA's Covid-19 vaccine rollout plans

Health minister Zweli Mkhize
Health minister Zweli Mkhize
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said on Sunday the government was committed to rolling out vaccines with urgency to establish herd immunity against Covid-19.

Speaking during a virtual public briefing to outline the health department's Covid-19 vaccine rollout strategy, he said the vaccine had to be made available to all South Africans, starting with the most vulnerable and health workers.

Mkhize said government was targeting 67% of the population in its strategy to establish herd immunity.

Health workers “need to be protected so they can ensure the stability of our health care systems”, he said.

About 10% of the population would be covered by the Covax programme, but he said bilateral negotiations were already being held with companies in the hope of securing some vaccines as early as February.

He said the rollout of vaccines would be done in three phases:

• phase one would focus on front line health workers with a target population of 1,25m;

• phase two would include essential workers with a target population of 2.5m, people older than 60 (5m) and people older than 18 with co-morbidities (8m);

• phase three would target other people older than 18 with a target population of 22.5m.

“At this stage we have secured the doses that will be acquired through Covax which will ensure we immunise 10% of the population through this mechanism.

"In line with the president's statement, we expect the processes will have delivered the vaccine by the beginning of the second quarter,” said Mkhize.

“The funds to pay the outstanding amount after the deposit paid by the Solidarity Fund, around R1.8bn, have been allocated and let us take the opportunity to again appreciate the manner in which the Solidarity Fund has partnered with government.

“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. 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.”

About 40 countries have already started rolling out vaccinations, and there is a growing chorus of critics asking why the same is not happening in SA.

An article in the Sunday Times by the Progressive Health Forum — consisting of some of SA's most eminent medical experts — suggested the state had bungled the acquisition of vaccines.

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