South Africa’s vaccination programme has been highly criticised for being too slow and not meeting the deadlines that were initially set. Challenges that have arisen include the decision not to use Astra Zeneca in South Africa, despite having procured the vaccines because of its reported effectiveness on the variant predominantly found in South Africa – 501Y.V2, as well as the temporary suspension of J&J due to concerns over blood clot side effects.
Subsequently J&J vaccine roll out has resumed from 28 April, with additional doses of 325,260 Pfizer vaccines procured in the first week of May. A similar amount of weekly vaccine doses is expected to arrive through May for a total of 1.3 million doses by the end of the month. Thereafter, the supply is expected to increase notably to more than 636,000 per week in June.
South Africa is also one of the only countries on the African continent that is manufacturing vaccines. The concern raised is less about South Africa’s ability to procure vaccines. Rather, it is the effective distribution thereof. Private companies are being relied on to assist with this.
The roll out programme is currently outlined as phase 1 focusing on the vaccination of healthcare workers as part of the Sisonke implementation study, which resumed on 28 April. Since then, 26,000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated, with the health department targeting 500,000 inoculations by the end of the study.
Plans are in place to inoculate 16.5 million people from May to October with the aid of private healthcare providers, which will buy shots from the national government. This forms part of the phase 2 of the rollout, targeting vulnerable individuals and essential workers. Phase 3 of the rollout, which will open up the shots to the rest of the country, are expected to start in November.