South Africa has a new Covid-19 vaccine target for Christmas

The Department of Health has updated its Covid-19 vaccination targets for South Africa and now aims to have 35 million people jabbed by Christmas, Reuters reports.

“We will be able to have vaccinated, at least one dose, 35 million people before Christmas,” the department’s Dr Nicholas Crisp told parliament on Wednesday (21 July). “That is the target that we have set and that we are chasing,” he said.

Crisp said the country lost around 25,000 vaccine doses during looting and acts of arson last week. While this will not put a dent in the country’s vaccine plans, he said that ‘every lost vaccine is a lost opportunity”.

Crisp said that health experts also predict a “second hump” in the ongoing third wave of infections because of the riots.

“We don’t know how big it will be, but it should be probably within seven to 10 days after people were milling around together and transmitting the virus”.

On Wednesday South Africa reported 16,240 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,327,472.

Deaths have reached 68,192, while recoveries have climbed to 2,098,818, leaving the country with a balance of 160,462 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 5,831,389.

Previous targets

The government has set a number of vaccination targets, which have, to date, been missed due to a host of problems.

The health department’s initial plan was to roll out vaccines in three phases, first targetting healthcare workers, then essential workers and those at highest risk (over the age of 60). The final phase would open vaccines up to the general population.

  • Phase 1 of the rollout targeted 1.2 million healthcare workers between February and May 2021 – this target was later reduced to one million and ended with only 500,000 healthcare workers vaccinated by the time the deadline passed.
  • Phase 2 launched in May, with the remainder of the healthcare workers not vaccinated in phase 1 also receiving vaccines during this time. This phase is still ongoing and targets an additional 16.6 million people to be vaccinated by mid-October.
  • Phase 3, which is the general population phase, targets an additional 22.6 million people to be vaccinated between November 2021 and February 2022.

Phase 1 was disrupted by a recall and freeze in administering the Johnson & Johanson vaccines in South Africa and in other countries. The doses were ultimately not used, with the delay setting the rollout back several weeks.

During phase 2, vaccine registration was opened to those over 50 years of age sooner than expected, due to the low turnout of those aged over 60. By 1 August, vaccines will start rolling out to those over the age of 35 – also ahead of schedule.

To date, only 5.8 million people in South Africa have been vaccinated, with only 85 days left to hit the phase 1 and phase 2 target of 17.8 million total vaccinated by mid-October.

12 million vaccines need to be administered in that time, meaning 140,000 doses daily, including weekends. This, when the country has managed only 34,000 vaccines each day since rollout launched in February.

To meet the government’s new target of 35 million people vaccinated by Christmas, officials need to vaccinate 29.2 million people in the next 156 days – or around 190,000 doses each day, including weekends.

Analysts say that government is likely to miss its target of achieving herd immunity – 41 million people vaccinated – by February 2022.

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South Africa has a new Covid-19 vaccine target for Christmas