Health experts have warned that if the country delays distributing COVID-19 vaccines to South Africans at large, the country risks facing a third wave.

Health officials say the new variant of the coronavirus has been driving the second wave of new infections.

University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Public Health, Professor Mosa Moshabela, says the variant is wreaking havoc.

“We’ve got a new variant which is changing the dynamics in this second surge. The virus is evolving in ways that are concerning and we recognise that it’s more transmissible and driving a big wave in the second surge but we expect that the same vaccines that have been developed will work. That’s why we are concerned that there’s is potential for the virus to be so strong that it makes it difficult for the vaccine to work, we have seen the third wave in other countries which means that we are not immune to the third wave,” says Moshabela.

Webinar: COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Strategy for South Africa

On Thursday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health that the country would receive the first batch of vaccine in January and another in February.

He says that priority will be given to the more than one-million health workers in both the private and the public sectors.

“Today, I am pleased to announce that the institute of India has given us permission to make a public announcement in preparation for the roll out to 1.25 million health workers to both private and public health workers. South Africa will receive the first one million doses of vaccine in January and another 500 000 in February, our teams are fine-tuning all the regulation processes,” says Mkhize.

South Africa has detected recorded 20 999 new coronavirus infections, the highest daily figure recorded since pandemic reached the country in March last year. This brings the cumulative number of cases to 1 170 590. 441 more people have succumbed to COVID-19 related complications, putting the national death toll at 31 809.

Minister Mkhize says SA will receive first batch of COVID-19 vaccine in January