President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet has announced that phase 2 of the country’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout will start in May 2021.
Briefing media on the announcement on Thursday (25 March), acting minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said that the second phase is scheduled to last for six months and will run until October 2021.
“This phase will cover over 13,350,140 people in the vulnerable groups, essential workers, and occupational health and safety streams,” she said.
“(This will include) workers in sectors that are critical for economic recovery such as mines, hospitality, taxi industry, retail and spaza shops, fruit and vegetable vendors, media and other applicable beneficiaries.”
Ntshavheni said that phase 3 will be implemented over three months between November 2021 – February 2022.
This phase aims to cover the remainder of all people in South Africa, including those who were not vaccinated in Phase 2. It will target 22,600,640 people, Ntshavheni said.
She added that the vaccination sites for Phases 2 and 3 will expand to 2,085 and will also include private sector sites to improve the efficiency and speed of the vaccination roll-out programme.
“Cabinet would like to reassure South Africans of the capacity of the Department of Health, in partnership with the private sector, to undertake a mass vaccine roll-out when Phase 2 gets underway,” Ntshavheni said.
Ntshavheni said that the Covid-19 Sisonke vaccination rollout, which forms phase 1 of the programme and focuses on healthcare workers, has been extended to 54 vaccine sites across the country.
The programme has to date vaccinated more than 207,008 people, she said. “It is being implemented over three months from February to April 2021, to target over 1.5 million (608,295 registered) healthcare workers countrywide.”
Ntshavheni added that the Department of Health is on track to vaccinate all healthcare workers by the end of phase 1.
Government has faced criticism or the slow rolling out of vaccines, with just over 200,000 healthcare workers inoculated 36 days after the Sisonke study began – averaging 5,700 doses daily. At this rate, it would take over 16 years to vaccinate 67% of the population.
Medical Research Council president, professor Glenda Gray told parliament on Wednesday that the receives approximately 80,000 doses every two weeks as part of the Sisonke study.
An additional 80,000 doses are expected next week, while a shipment of around 200,000 vaccines is expected within two weeks, she said.
Ntshavheni said that cabinet has welcomed the continual arrival of tranches of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine into the country
More than 486 million doses have been administered across 137 countries, according to data collected by Bloomberg. The latest rate was roughly 11.9 million doses a day.
In the US, more Americans have received at least one dose than have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began. So far, 130 million doses have been given. In the last week, an average of 2.49 million doses per day were administered, Bloomberg said.