Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize has given the assurance that government’s plan to roll out a coronavirus vaccine by April next year is on track. This comes amid criticism from the Democratic Alliance (DA) that the vaccine to be delivered under the COVAX facility will only arrive in the country in the second quarter and not the first quarter of next year is expected.

However, Mkhize says South Africa is considering 11 vaccines that are currently being tested in various countries.

Several countries have already received shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca jabs.

He says government is looking for specific elements in the vaccines.

“What we are looking at is which vaccine has got good efficacy and is available and is it affordable. And if you put all of those factors together, it will be a matter of which one is available. You might find that a particular vaccine is cheap, easy to administer, with easy logistics, and is affordable but it’s not available yet and yet we want to get some vaccines now. So, that means going to the back of the queue until it’s available.”

Health workers and the vulnerable in society will be among the first to receive a vaccine to combat the coronavirus.

“What we can say to South Africans is that our first target, once we get the vaccines, will be the health workers and the vulnerable groups. When we are ready with all of that information we will make it public. At the moment there is a lot of behind the scenes work and negotiations and we will only announce once we are ready with it,” says the minister.

Increased testing for COVID-19

Meanwhile, Mkhize said the Department is increasing testing for COVID-19, with Gauteng expected to experience a massive wave of infections next week.

This after President Cyril Ramaphosa moved the country to adjusted Level 3 lockdown, saying it was necessary to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Mkhize was briefing the media as part of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) on the adjustments to Level 3 lockdown restrictions.

Full NCCC briefing: