Over 10 million South Africans have been tested for the coronavirus since the disease broke out in the country in March last year, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Thursday.With a some 10,020,025 people tested since the outbreak, the country is currently conducting a nationwide vaccination campaign to inject 1.5 million health care workers with the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine during the first phase of the exercise, the minister said.
With some 278,909 health care workers given the jab so far, Mkhize said the country was on track to vaccinate 40 million people as part of its plan to create a herd immunity among its 50 milllion-plus population.
South Africa has also sealed a deal to procure 20 million dual-dose Pfizer vaccine of the United States-made drug to complement the initial efforts of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, he added.
Meanwhile, Mkhize said Africa should develop capacity to manufacture and distribute its own biotechnology to develop vaccines as Covid-19 continued to sweep the continent and the rest of the globe.
Speaking during a webinar to observe World Health Day, the minister said Africa’s dependency on other continents for Covid-19 drugs should be a thing of the past.
“We should take it as an urgent assignment to make sure that, come other pandemics in the future, Africa is capable of manufacturing its own requirements — whether it’s protective gear, pharmaceutical products, or diagnostic vaccines and their equipment,” he said.
The minister said it was “quite a challenge to rely on other various countries when the entire continent has no access to the manufacturing capacity for vaccines.”
He added: “I think this is a lesson that we must learn now, and to never be put in a situation where our response is very much dependent on other countries serving their own domestic interests first, while the continent benefits last.”