The African population runs the risk for getting wiped out by June, if the continent doesn’t do something about getting it vaccinated sooner. There have been mixed views over consuming the various brands of COVID19 vaccine that the continent has received under the promising UN’s Covax scheme.
But South Africa has made a public pledge to vaccinate its 5 million population by the end of June. The Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has already made a public announcement that in the first phase that ended last week, they had given jabs to 478,000 of the planned 500,000 healthcare workers.
In the rest of the doses, the government does not plan to get its elderly and vulnerable inoculated first. Instead, the remaining doses will be used by the Medical Research Council to conduct some important studies and programmes that will help understand how vaccines work for population groups such as people living with HIV, and pregnant and lactating mothers.
Strangely, these will not be used for Phase 2 or Phase 3.It is a dangerous chance to take, owing to the speed at which the virus is mutating and evolving according to its geographical spread. South Africa has been waiting for the Pfizer vaccine delivery. It has received just over 975,000 doses. But it will ambitiously take over the task of entering the second phase of inoculation, where it is going to give priority to vulnerable people such as those over 60 and those with comorbidities, even before the general public gets vaccinated in the next phase.
As electronic systems were set up a fortnight ago for people to register for vaccination, health workers and those above the age of 60 years have already started receiving messages, indicating the designated sites to reach for their vaccine jab. Preparation has been robust. Some 87 sites across the country have been readied, with 83 in the public sector and four in the private sector. The government intends to publish their whereabouts for public information.
According to Mr. Mkhize, “By the end of June, we expect to have received 4.5 million doses of Pfizer and two million doses of Johnson and Johnson once (they are) released (after approval by the Food and Drug Administration in the US).”
Mr. Mkhize is hopeful that this plan will streamline traffic and help look after the elderly on priority. Over 7,000 residents living in 102 old age homes will be visited personally to receive their vaccinations by the end of May as part of the rollout plan. While the world reels under wave after wave of Covid-19 attack, this might be the only way to save the day for South Africa. The decision to go ahead with the vaccine drive comes soon after Premier David Makhura announced that South Africa’s economic hub of Gauteng province was now officially in a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Strangely, the epicenter of the vaccine, China is inoculating some 14 million people daily. It is quiet a contradiction, and looks like the Chinese government was already ready with its plan even before the pandemic took its course.