South Africa is set to receive an allocation of Covid-19 vaccine doses through the African Union (AU), which has been negotiating with manufacturers to secure vaccines for the entire continent on a pooled basis.
President Cyril Ramaphosa made the announcement on Monday evening few hours after he received the first consignment of COVID-19 vaccines produced by the Serum Institute in India.
“Through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team of the African Union, we have to date secured 1 billion vaccines for the entire continent.
“Seven hundred million of these will come from the global COVAX facility and 300 million have been facilitated by the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.
“We will be getting other vaccines that will be donated by various private sector companies to add to the vaccines that our continent needs.
“We aim to secure enough doses to achieve ‘herd immunity’, also known as ‘population immunity…this is when enough of the population is immune to the virus to provide indirect protection to those who are not immune and this should bring the spread of the virus under control.
“Our scientists estimate that we will likely reach herd immunity once around 67 per cent of our people are immune. This amounts to around 40 million people in South Africa,” he said.
According to the President, the vaccines that government is procuring have gone through meticulous, multi-stage testing processes, including large trials involving thousands of people.
In addition to determining their effectiveness, he said these trials are also designed to identify side effects and safety concerns. Independent regulators then review the data from these trials to ensure they are not harmful.
“The vaccines that we are procuring have been shown to be safe in large clinical trials across multiple countries. We all want to be free of this disease. We all want to be safe, and for those we love to be safe.
“We aim to make the vaccine available to all adults living in South Africa, regardless of their citizenship or residence status. We will be putting in place measures to deal with the challenge of undocumented migrants so that, as with all other people, we can properly record and track their vaccination history. It is in the best interests of all that as many of us receive the vaccine as possible,” he said.
Nobody will be forced to take the vaccine
President Ramaphosa emphasised that nobody will be forced to take the vaccine. “But I want to be clear. Nobody will be forced to take this vaccine. Nobody will be forbidden from travelling, from enrolling at school, or from taking part in any public activity if they have not been vaccinated.
“Nobody will be given this vaccine against their will, nor will the vaccine be administered in secret. Any rumours to this effect are both false and dangerous,” he said.
Lowest daily infections
One of the good news delivered by the President was that the country recorded its lowest daily increase in infections since the beginning of December last year.
“In fact, the average rate of new infections has been steadily coming down over the last three weeks, indicating that we have now passed the peak of the second wave.
“In the past seven days, the daily average of new infections was around 5,500, compared to just over 10,000 infections in the previous seven days.
“In other words, the average number of daily new infections has come down to almost half of what it was. The number of hospital admissions has also been falling.
“At the peak of the second wave, we recorded over 2,300 hospital admissions in a day. This had fallen to 295 hospital admissions by the 29th of January,” he said.