New COVID-19 vaccine plan for South Africa targets 200,000 people per day

Health Minister Zwele Mkhize has outlined a new plan to rapidly speed up South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts to reach herd immunity by early 2022, the Sunday Times has reported.

According to the newspaper, Mkhize on Saturday briefed top ANC members on the plan during the party’s national executive committee meeting (NEC).

The rollout is expected to start around mid-May, after the arrival of the first batch of 2.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines in late April.

“During the mass vaccination phases we will need to be targeting about 200,000 per day nationally, with variations across provinces because of the differing concentrations of populations,” said Mkhize.

It includes using more than 2,000 identified sites at hospitals, churches, shopping centres, and stadiums for vaccinations.

According to Mkhize, the sites will be grouped by size, with the following vaccination capabilities at each type:

  • 1,200 small sites – 100 vaccinations each per day
  • 500 medium sites – 300 vaccinations each per day
  • 50 large sites – 1,000 to 2,000 each vaccinations per day

The first phase of the new plan will see the completion of the vaccination of South Africa’s 1.5 million healthcare workers which is currently underway.

The second phase which will include the vaccination of senior citizens over 60, those with comorbidities, and essential workers will begin at the same time as phase one, Mkhize told The Sunday Times.

All other adults which fall outside of the categories described in phase one and phase two will only begin receiving vaccines in mid-November as part of phase three. This is unless the required doses arrive sooner than expected.

This means that South Africa is expected to reach its target of vaccinating 40 million people – or 67% of the population – in early 2022.

15 years to reach herd immunity

News of the revised plan comes as South Africa is expected to miss its initial COVID-19 vaccination targets by a long shot.

At the start of 2021, Mkhize said the government aimed to vaccinate 67% of the population against COVID-19 by the end of this year in order to reach herd immunity.

Only 231,002 people have received COVID-19 vaccines to date, however, which works out to around 7,000 per day., since the arrival of the first Johnson & Johnson vaccines in February.

At the current rate, Media Hack Collective’s Vaccination Calculator showed that it would take South Africa over 15 years to vaccinate 67% of the population.

This represents less than 0.4% of South Africa’s total population of around 60 million people.

While South Africa has secured more 40 million vaccines doses from Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and the COVAX group, only a handful of these have been delivered to date.

Government has been accused of a lackadaisical approach in its negotiations for vaccines, while President Cyril Ramaphosa has blamed wealthy countries for buying vaccines in bulk and hoarding them.

However, it appears that even less affluent African countries are showing better progress than South Africa.

By Friday Ghana had already vaccinated about 420,000 people – or 1.4% of its population – while Rwanda had dosed 349,000 people – or 2.7% of its citizens.

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New COVID-19 vaccine plan for South Africa targets 200,000 people per day