South Africa is lagging behind other countries in the race to secure a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines.
This is according to Rapport, which said the government has not started negotiating with the manufacturers who are running vaccine trials in the country.
The fact that four of the 10 front-runner vaccines are being tested in South Africa offers no guaranteed preference when it comes to the availability of vaccines, Rapport said.
The vaccines currently being tested in the country include one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, which the companies this week claimed to have more than 90% effectiveness.
Countries around the world are scrambling to procure vaccines, even before they are approved for use, a study from Duke Global Health Innovation Centre has claimed.
According to the centre, more than 9 billion dosages of COVID-19 candidate-vaccines have already been secured between the US, Canada, and several European countries.
It said that individual countries order as many candidate-vaccines as possible to increase the likelihood of covering their populations.
Botswana ahead of South Africa
Rapport noted that South Africa’s neighbours Namibia and Botswana are already part of an international vaccine initiative, while the latter has even made its first payment to the WHO’s Covax initiative – which brings together more than 10 vaccines currently under development.
The country’s deputy minister told Reuters this purchase will provide vaccines for 450,000 Botswana citizens.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Department of Health said it would be making an announcement on the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for the country soon.
According to calculations by Reuters, it would have to spend R2 billion to secure vaccines for only 10% of the South African population.
Interventions to prevent second wave
President Cyril Ramaphosa recently addressed the nation on the state of the country’s COVID-19 response as it attempts to avoid a second wave of infections.
Ramaphosa announced that certain level 1 lockdown restrictions would be relaxed to allows for improved economic recovery, which included lifting the limits on trading hours for retail outlets selling alcohol, in addition to international travel measures.
Existing restrictions on public gatherings and public venue capacity limits will remain in place, however.
In addition, the president outlined certain interventions to stop the spread of the virus in resurgence hotspots like the Eastern Cape.
“In response to the rising infections, we are implementing a resurgence plan that has been developed together with the research team that has been deployed to our country by the WHO,” he said.
- Primary healthcare outreach teams to improve contact tracing.
- Daily community mobilisation.
- Ensuring the readiness of health facilities.
- Preparing to respond to cluster outbreaks.
Community screening and testing in hotspot areas will also be expanded to reduce the possibility of a second wave.
Ramaphosa also cautioned South Africans to be wary of transmission over the festive season.
“The second area of concern is the upcoming festive season, during which time many South Africans travel to other parts of the country and people tend to relax and gather socially,” he said.
“These activities, if not undertaken responsibly, pose the greatest immediate threat to our management of the pandemic.”