South Africa has targeted a minimum of 67% of its population for vaccination against the coronavirus in order to “achieve herd immunity” starting in April, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Monday.Originally, Pretoria had planned to vaccinate only 10% of the population using the UN World Health Organisation’s COVAX vaccine pool facility made available to least developed states, Mkhize said.
But criticism from civil society and the opposition that a 10% vaccination was inadequate for a population of 50 million people, has forced the government to come up with the additional 57% vaccination coverage which would be paid using its own resources, he said.
According to the Ministry of Health, the vaccine’s rollout strategy would be carried out in three phases – with healthcare workers set to be vaccinated first, followed by essential workers and people aged over 60, and those with co-morbidities in the second phase.
The country is currently in negotiations with pharmaceutical firms that have produced the Covid-19 vaccine to secure the additional stocks to add to the ones the COVAX programme pledged to South Africa and other developing countries, Mkhize said.
He said the government was also negotiating for earlier delivery of the coronavirus vaccine so that it could start before April.
“Right now, we are dealing with companies that have various advantages. For example, those that have shown to have high efficacy like Moderna and Pfizer, we holding talks with them to secure the needed vaccines,” the minister said.