South Africa’s vaccine rollout plan which was launched by Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize is nothing but an aspirational goal, according to Professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand Dr. Shabir Madhi.

Speaking to SAFM, Madhi says the numbers as presented by Mkhize don’t add up if the country hopes to vaccinate 40 million people by the end of the year. This with the big assumption that SA might actually get a vaccine manufacturer that can provide 80 million doses of vaccine, added to the fact that most of the vaccines require two doses.

Breaking down the numbers, the plan aims to vaccinate from April 1 would mean that in the first month, South Africa would need to vaccinate about 150 000 people per day – and from the six months onwards, the country would need to vaccinate 300 000 people per day, this to reach the target of ensuring that 67% of the population receive the vaccine.

Madhi suggests that these aims are not realistic. “It’s further compounded by the fact that the vaccines are not actually authorized for use in children under the age of 16, which effectively means that the 40 million that we are referring to are adults in South Africa and will be vaccinated – 100% of adults to get 67% of the population vaccinated – even if that was possible and certainly it’s not possible for any country. The United States, the United Kingdom are struggling to vaccinate even 50 000 people per day. But the bigger problem is that there isn’t actually any vaccine to come our way to vaccinate 18 million doses or that’s going to come our way at this late stage of the game.”

Although South Africa is part of the COVAX vaccine scheme, this procurement will see the country purchase enough doses for just 10% of its population. The government has indicated they’ve now started bilaterals regarding the procurement of the vaccine to ensure that they bring the vaccine into the country as soon as possible, the government might have left it to a little too late according to Madhi.

“Let us be clear, starting bilateral after all of the vaccines that are going to be manufactured probably in the first six months – it’s not going to assist you in terms of getting a vaccine sooner. It’s going to get you getting much later than it really would have been required.”

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