The government has set a target of vaccinating all South Africans by February 2022 as the country continues its Sisonke Covid-19 vaccine roll-out programme.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet announced that Phase 2 of the vaccine roll-out would start in May and would be implemented over six months.
While Phase 1 was expected to be completed by the end of March with health workers targeted to receive the first round of vaccines, Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the government was expected to reach its goal by May 17.
“I do not recall Minister Mkhize saying that 1.1 million health workers would be vaccinated by the end of March. What I do know is that Phase 1 is expected to conclude by May 17 with Minister Mkhize committing to 1.5 million health workers vaccinated. The Department of Health is on track to vaccinate all healthcare workers by the end of Phase 1,” she said.
Briefing the media on Thursday after the Cabinet’s meeting on Wednesday, Ntshavheni said that the roll-out programme had been extended to five vaccine sites across the country. The programme, to date, has seen more than 207 808 people vaccinated.
Phase 2 would cover more than 13.3 million people in vulnerable groups, essential workers and the occupational health and safety stream, including workers in sectors that were critical to the recovery of the country’s economy. These, Ntshavheni said, included workers in the mines, hospitality industry, taxi industry, retail and spaza shops, fruit and vegetable vendors, media and other applicable beneficiaries.
Ntshavheni said the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) would also determine who would be part of the other applicable beneficiaries, such as teachers and police officers.
The vaccination sites for Phases 2 and 3 would expand to 2 085 and would also include private sector sites “to improve efficiency and speed of the vaccination roll-out programme”, she said.
From November to February 2022, Phase 3 of the vaccination roll-out programme will take place, to cover the remainder of all the population, including those who were not vaccinated in Phase 2. Phase 3 is targeting 22.6m people.
Ntshavheni said that the Cabinet also welcomed the continuous arrival of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine in the country.
She said the Cabinet was confident in the progress the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) had made in authorising the J&J vaccine for mass vaccination.
“The recent approval by the SAHPRA of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine should give the country access to more lifesaving vaccines,” Ntshavheni said.
“The Cabinet also welcomed the visit to the Biovac Manufacturing Facility in the Western Cape on March 18 by the chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Covid-19 Vaccines, Deputy President David Mabuza. The visit assessed the facility’s capabilities, infrastructure and investments to support vaccine manufacturing and development,” Ntshavheni said.
The partnership between Biovac and the US-based immunotherapy company, ImmunityBio, to develop South Africa’s capability to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines, will result in ImmunityBio's second-generation Covid-19 vaccine being manufactured in the country.
The Cabinet also raised concerns over the Easter, Pesach and Ramadaan celebrations contributing to a potential third wave of Covid-19 infections in the country.
Ntshavheni said the NCCC would meet to consider additional and stricter measures to be put in place over those religious holidays to avoid a resurgence of the virus over the upcoming religious events.