South Africa has secured 20 million virus vaccines, says Ramaphosa

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa says that the country has secured 20 million vaccine doses to combat the coronavirus, which are to be delivered ‘mainly’ in the first half of the year.

The government last week announced it had struck a deal for an initial 1.5 million doses of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford from The Serum Institute of India Ltd, with first shipments set to arrive this month, Bloomberg reported.

It will aim to inoculate two-thirds of the population by the end of the year.

The president said in a nationally televised address on Monday, that while the actual level needed for herd immunity is not known, local scientists estimate that the country will likely reach herd immunity at around 67% of the population – around 40 million people.

“We have put in place a comprehensive vaccination strategy to reach all parts of the country.

“We are in the process of procuring vaccines through three channels: through the World Health Organisation’s COVAX facility, through the African Union’s vaccine initiative and through direct engagements with vaccine manufacturers,” said Ramaphosa.

As noted before, he said that the country will receive vaccine doses for around 10% of the population through COVAX.

Her said that the South African government has also engaged directly with several vaccine manufacturers for over six months.

“Given the massive global demand for vaccines and the vastly greater purchasing power of wealthier countries, we are exploring all avenues to get as many vaccine doses as soon as possible.

“While there are several promising negotiations with a number of different manufacturers that still need to be concluded, we have to date secured 20 million doses to be delivered mainly in the first half of the year.”

He said that the government will make further announcements as it concludes negotiations with vaccine manufacturers.

In Phase 1, with the first batch of vaccines, the government will prioritise around 1.2 million front line health workers.

In Phase 2, when more vaccines arrive, it will prioritise essential workers such as teachers, police, municipal workers and other frontline personnel.

“We will also prioritise people in institutions like old age homes, shelters and prisons, people over 60 years of age and adults with co-morbidities. The total number we plan to reach in this phase is around 16 million people,” the president said.

“In Phase 3, with increased manufacturer supplies, we will then vaccinate the remaining adult population of approximately 22.5 million people.

“We will then have reached around 40 million South Africans, which is considered to approximate herd immunity,” he said.

Every vaccine that will be used in our programme will have to be approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, which applies stringent scientific standards to ensure the safety and efficacy of any drug or treatment, the president stressed.

Vaccines will be distributed through hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, pharmacies and workplaces.

Read: Ramaphosa extends lockdown level 3 in South Africa – with some changes to restrictions

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South Africa has secured 20 million virus vaccines, says Ramaphosa