'We will be secured': Ramaphosa says SA vaccination rollout plan is on track

28 February 2021 - 20:59 By amanda khoza
An SAA flight with crucial doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrives at OR Tambo International Airport on Saturday.
An SAA flight with crucial doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrives at OR Tambo International Airport on Saturday.
Image: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night assured South Africans that his government would ensure there were sufficient vaccines for the country.

“We will be secure when it comes to vaccines,” said Ramaphosa.

He was addressing the nation on developments in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. During the address he also announced that the country would move to level 1 of the coronavirus restrictions due to a significant decline in new infections in recent weeks.

This Friday, March 5, marks exactly a year since the first case of the coronavirus was recorded in SA. Since then, said Ramaphosa, nearly 50,000 South Africans had died and more than 1.5-million had been infected.

But with the arrival of the vaccines, there was now hope.

Ramaphosa said: “In the 10 days since we launched our coronavirus vaccination programme, more than 67,000 health workers – who are on the front line of our fight against Covid-19 – have been vaccinated.”

He said a new batch of 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrived in the country on Saturday, and SA was steadily increasing the number of doses administered each day.

“The start of our vaccination campaign has gone extremely well. It has shown what we can achieve when we work together as government, the scientific community and the private sector.”

All provinces, he said, had established vaccination sites and put in place plans for the expansion of the programme as it gains momentum.

“The number of sites that will be available for vaccination will be expanded next week from 17 sites to 49. Of the 49 sites, 32 will be at public hospitals and 17 sites in private hospitals.”

This included sites in rural areas, to improve access to rural health care workers.

“Once the vaccination of health care workers has been completed, we will begin with phase two of the vaccine rollout in late April or early May,” said Ramaphosa.

The president said phase two would include the elderly, essential workers, people living or working in institutional settings and those with comorbidities.

For this phase, he said SA would be activating many more sites for vaccination in the public and private health care sector, to reach as many people in the shortest possible time.

And, he said, more doses of Covid-19 vaccines were on the way.

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“We have recently signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson to secure 11 million doses. Of these, 2.8 million doses will be delivered in the second quarter and the rest spread throughout the year.

“We have also secured 20 million doses from Pfizer, which will be delivered from the second quarter. Additionally, we have secured 12 million vaccine doses from the Covax facility and are finalising our dose allocation from the AU,” he said.

He added that SA was in constant contact with various other vaccine manufacturers to ensure that the country had the necessary quantities of vaccines when they were needed.

Ramaphosa said the country had emerged out of the deadly second wave with the number of new infections, admissions to hospital and deaths falling significantly and that they continued to do so.

“In the week that has just passed, the country recorded just under 10,000 new infections. A month ago, in the last week of January, the country recorded over 40,000 new cases. And a month before that, in the last week of December, the country recorded close to 90,000 new cases,” he said, adding that SA was clearly past the second wave of infections.

Ramaphosa urged South Africans to continue to adhere to Covid-19 safety measures, even as more people are vaccinated.

“Vaccines significantly reduce the likelihood of a person developing symptoms and becoming seriously ill, and they reduce the overall rate of infection in a population,” he said, adding that vaccines were now the most effective measure that the country had.