There will only be enough Covax vaccines distributed to South Africa to cover 3% of its population in the first half of 2021, the City Press reports.
Speaking in a webinar, Deputy director-general of health Dr Anban Pillay said that each of the 190 countries set to receive the Covax vaccine would only get enough to cover 3% of their populations in this period.
This is far less than President Cyril Ramaphosa’s original expectation of 10% national vaccination against the coronavirus by July 2021.
According to the report, frontline workers in the public and private sectors will be first in line to receive the vaccine when it is available.
While countries are able to order doses directly from vaccine developers, South Africa has lagged behind in this regard.
Professor Shabir Madhi recently said that the government has “dropped the ball” on this and should have begun negotiating with developers six months ago.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told City Press that the vaccines are expected to work against the new strain of COVID-19 that recently landed in South Africa.
Missed vaccine payments
The government has come under fire for missing its first payment deadline to secure COVID-19 vaccines on 15 December.
The payment, which is a deposit to secure Covax vaccines, comprises R327 million and will be made in the coming days from the Solidarity Fund.
The Solidarity Fund recently told Bloomberg it would make the payment as soon as it gets approval from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations, which is running Covax.
While the fund will pay the initial deposit, this is only 15% of the R2.2 billion that will ultimately have to be paid for the Covax vaccines.
The government has not yet stated where the balance of these funds will be sourced from.
New COVID-19 variant
A new COVID-19 variant was recently observed in South Africa as cases in the country continue to rise rapidly.
Health Minister Zwele Mkhize recently announced that a variant of the SARS-COV-2 Virus (Covid-19) – currently termed the ‘501.V2 Variant’ – has been identified by genomics scientists in South Africa.
In addition, clinicians have been providing anecdotal evidence of a shift in the clinical epidemiological picture- in particular noting that they are seeing a larger proportion of younger patients with no co-morbidities presenting with critical illness.
The evidence that has been collated strongly suggests that that the current second wave we are experiencing is being driven by this new variant.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim said the second wave shows signs of spreading faster than the first wave of COVID-19.
“It is still very early but at this stage, the preliminary data suggests that the virus that is now dominating in the second wave is spreading faster than the first wave. It is not clear if the second wave has more or less deaths, in other words, the severity is still very unclear.”
“We would expect it to be a less severe virus, but we do not have clear evidence at this point. We have not seen any red flags looking at our current death information,” he said.
“We had all of these different strains routinely spreading in South Africa during our first wave and subsequently. What became quite different that we did not expect is the rapid way in which this variant has become dominant in South Africa.”