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Vaccine Rollout Strategy Under the Spotlight

January 7, 2021

Department of Health

The health department plans to vaccinate 67% of the South African population by the end of 2021 in order to achieve herd immunity.

The health minister, Zweli Mkhize, announced this during a recent briefing on the Vaccine Rollout Strategy.

The minister pointed out that the approach will be a phased rollout of the vaccine beginning with the most vulnerable in the population, namely, front line health care workers.

By the end of phase 3, the department aims to have immunized 40 350 000 citizens.

The minister confirmed that the doses to be acquired via COVAX have been secured and it is expected that the vaccine will be delivered by the beginning of the second quarter.

Medical aids have also been approached to be part of co-financing.

The minister indicated that the process is now at a “stage where the Council for Medical Schemes has engaged various medical schemes and I have signed amendments of regulations to allow for vaccines and other therapeutics to be part of the prescribed minimum benefits”.

According to the minister, the “total financing arrangement will include medical schemes, business and government with an arrangement made with the Solidarity Fund to provide a platform for collection of funds and for expedited and controlled procurement processes”.

Meanwhile, in December 2020, the department issued a statement declaring that no evidence exists that the Coronavirus COVID-19 501.v2 variant is more dangerous than the UK variant.

The department indicated that there is evidence that the UK variant developed earlier than the South African variant.

“There is also no evidence that the 501.V2 causes more severe disease or increased mortality than the UK variant or any variant that has been sequenced around the world. This, as well as other factors that influence transmissibility, is the subject of further investigation involving genomic investigators, epidemiologists, public health specialists, clinicians and other key stakeholders.”

The department also confirmed that future research will also shed light on the question of whether the 501.V2 variant becomes resistant to vaccines that have been developed.

In another statement, the department announced that South Africa’s COVAX participation had been secured as the Solidarity Fund concluded a down payment of 19,2 million USD (R283m) made to GAVI (the Vaccine Alliance) to secure South Africa’s entry into the COVAX facility.

“The down payment represents 15% of the total cost of securing access to vaccines for 10% (roughly 6 million) of the population.”