Mkhize: Govt aims to secure COVID-19 vaccines as early as February
JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said government aimed to obtain COVID-19 vaccines by February, but was still in talks with pharmaceutical companies and no deals had yet been signed.
On Sunday evening Mkhize and a panel of experts briefed the nation on how South Africa would roll out the vaccine to the public.
“We are trying to get as many vaccines to be available as possible with a target of February, although all of that is very much going to depend on the success of the current bilateral negotiations that we are having with various companies,” said the minister.
There's been growing criticism of government's response, with South Africans watching on as many other countries roll out mass immunisation programmes.
South Africa is battling a resurgence in coronavirus infections driven partly by a new variant.
It’s recorded more than 1.1 million infections, the most on the African continent, and more than 29,000 deaths.
The Health Department confirmed overnight that 402 more people died in this country after contracting the virus - and almost 12,000 new infections were picked up over the past 24-hour period.
Africa's most industrialised nation is participating in the Covax vaccine distribution initiative co-led by the World Health Organization, but the scheme could only cover 10% of its population of roughly 60 million people and the first doses may only arrive in the second quarter of the year.
That has caused anxiety among some scientists and academics, who have urged government to reach agreements with pharmaceutical companies quickly given that other countries have already started vaccinating.
Mkhize said officials were doing everything possible to obtain vaccines before the Covax doses became available.
“Therefore, to raise these funds we have embarked on an additional public-private partnership which is already at this point showing us very good outcomes. We have already approached medical aids to co-finance with government,” said Mkhize.
The minister said the ultimate aim was to vaccinate a minimum of 67% of the population to reach herd immunity.
He said the approach would be to target frontline healthcare workers in the first phase of vaccination, followed by a second phase comprising essential workers, people in congregate settings, people over the age of 60 and those aged over 18 with co-morbidities.
A third phase of the rollout would target other people over the age of 18.
“These vaccines need to be available, I would say, for the majority of the people. We need to be able to get them rolled out to them by the end of 2021.”
WATCH: Zweli Mkhize on SA's COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans
This article first appeared on EWN : Mkhize: Govt aims to secure COVID-19 vaccines as early as February
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