South Africa is in negotiations with major vaccine manufacturers in an effort to procure vaccines that will immunise the population against COVID-19.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize outlined the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan earlier this week, stating that the government is mindful of the urgency of obtaining a vaccine.
“We are targeting a minimum of 67% of the population to achieve herd immunity and the approach will be a phased rollout of the vaccine beginning with the most vulnerable in our population,” the minister said.
“We have set up structures to expedite financing, sourcing and procurement and therefore the issue of the vaccine strategy will get undivided attention from the department and government.”
Vaccines will be made available quickly, he said, to ensure that herd immunity is reached as soon as possible.
“The vaccines will need to be made available quickly so that most of our citizens are covered by the end of the first year of rollout – this year,” the minister said.
“Having secured for 10% of the population, we have embarked on other efforts to get the rest of the 57% of the population to be targeted by the end 2021 but, more importantly, we are making efforts to obtain vaccines much earlier, hopefully as early as February 2021,” he said.
The big four
The government is in discussions to potentially secure vaccine stock from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have both been contacted by the government directly regarding the provision of vaccines, while Moderna and AstraZeneca plan to provision vaccines through the Covax initiative, although there are currently no supplies of these available for Africa.
All four manufacturers remain a consideration for South Africa, although the country’s vaccine buying programme may be affected by available supply and cost.
The Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines have all received approval for emergency use from various international regulatory agencies.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, has still not received regulatory approval. This is expected to be granted in January 2021.
It is important to note that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the only one out of the four that is a single-dose vaccine, which may make it cheaper and easier to administer across the population than the alternatives.
These vaccines also differ in their mechanics. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines employ messenger RNA (mRNA), which instruct cells to create antibodies that combat the proteins found on the coronavirus. They do not include the coronavirus itself, but only “instructions” for the body on how to combat the coronavirus.
The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johson vaccines use the same basic principle, but they store these instructions in double-stranded DNA instead of RNA. These instructions are added to an adenovirus, which is designed to enter cells but cannot replicate inside them.
COVID-19 vaccine stats
We have summarised the efficacy rate, storage temperature once unfrozen, dosage, and cost per dose of all four vaccines below.
|Pfizer-BioNTech||Two doses||2-8 degrees||$10 (R150)||95%|
|Moderna||Two doses||2-8 degrees||$32-$37 (R480 – R555) internationally||95%|
|AstraZeneca||Two doses||2-8 degrees||$3 (R45)||62%-90%|
|Johnson & Johnson||Single dose||2-8 degrees||$10 (R150)||90%|