It’ll take a year for South Africa to reach COVID-19 population immunity – and age will be a central factor in deciding who gets the vaccination and when. A Sowetan report notes that this is according to Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, who said lessons learnt from the current vaccine rollout – under the “Sisonke Protocol”, which has seen just shy of 280,000 health workers given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as of Wednesday night – determined that age was a key factor. These lessons, he said, meant government would have to make some changes to its vaccine strategy.
“We believe that with these revisions we can achieve the target of vaccinating approximately 250,000 to 270,000 citizens a day at our peak, thus reaching population immunity within the period of a year.
“There are some key findings that necessitated some revisions of the rollout plan. The first of these is that evidence shows that age is the most important factor determining adverse outcomes such as death, hospitalisation and moderate to severe illness. Age alone as a factor surpasses comorbidities, occupational exposure or potential exposure from living in a congregate setting,” he said.
According to the Sowetan report, Mkhize was speaking shortly after he, Gauteng premier David Makhura and Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi visited three vaccination centres, including the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital to assess the readiness for the second phase of the vaccination programme.
The second phase of the rollout plan is expected to commence on 17 May and run until 17 October. “That six-month period will focus largely on people who are most vulnerable. We’ve indicated the age issue, people with comorbidities, people on the frontline. That will take us six months. That’s because we will be opening some of the vaccination sites consequently and we will also be looking at the flow of vaccines,” he said.
Of the 51m vaccines, South Africa would receive 1,099,200 J&J doses this month. The exact date of delivery was yet to be determined, with quality assurance processes being completed, according to Mkhize.
Meanwhile, Pfizer indicated South Africa could expect delivery 14 days after confirmation of receipt of funds.
Commenting on who will be given which vaccine, the Sowetan quotes Mkhize as saying most of the Pfizer vaccines would be used in urban areas and densely populated settings within a shorter distance. That was so that people could go through vaccination centres and nothing would affect the quality of the vaccines.
He added the government would not be able to execute the programme on its own, saying all hands had to be on deck.
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