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Vaccines expected to offer relief as COVID-19 deaths continue to soar

30 January 2021, 7:49 PM  |  Ntlantla Kgatlane  | 

Over 42 000 people have succumbed to the deadly COVID-19 within a year in South Africa. This as the country is eagerly waiting for the arrival of the 20 million doses of vaccines.

In just a few days, the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines will arrive from India, as Neha Poonia reports:

Last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa vouched that the vaccine will reach the country on Monday. Now, all eyes are now on the President to fulfil his promise.

COVID-19 has changed the lives of many since its first case touched South African shores. The way of life as we know has come to a halt.

The President announced that the one million doses of a coronavirus vaccine expected from India will be administered a week after arriving in the country.

Fight against new variant 

Chairperson of the Health Products Regulatory Authority ( SAHPRA), Professor Helen Rees, says the rollout of the coronavirus vaccines in South Africa will help researchers understand how the immune system works with the vaccine to fight the new variant.

The so-called SA variant appears to be much more infectious and resistant to vaccines than variants in the UK and Brazil.

Rees says the vaccination programme will also prevent further mutation of the virus.

The arrival of vaccines has given hope to many but others still remaining skeptical.

Co-Chair of the COVID-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, says the COVID-19 vaccines being procured by the government will be administered free of charge.

With the first batch of vaccines expected to be delivered by the end of this month, Karim says the country is progressing past the peak of the second wave of infections, which now seems to be on a downward trend.

He says funding for the vaccines will come from Treasury and various medical aid schemes.

“The vaccines that are being purchased for COVID-19, they are being purchased centrally by the government. The vaccines, as far as I understand, are being provided free to anyone who is being vaccinated. The actual funding is coming from the Treasury and the medical aids are also contributing to the cost, but to the person receiving it, there is no cost at all.”

Will South Africans get vaccinated? 

According to the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) COVID Democracy Survey, two-thirds of adults are willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

The analysis is based on more than 10 000 completed questionnaires that were weighted by race, education, and age, making findings broadly representative of the total adult population.

“Fifty-two percent definitely would take a COVID-19 vaccine if it was available. 14% probably would. 12% definitely would not. 6% probably would not. And 15% are don’t knows. It’s a very significant number of people wanting to take the vaccine and this is an important figure partly because it’s higher than figures that have come out in other recent surveys and partly because it begins to take us towards the point where one can see the possibility of there being herd immunity or population immunity if the vaccine becomes available in the near future,” explained Professor Kate Alexander, South African Research Chair in Social Change at the University of Johannesburg.

Some health workers skeptical about the vaccine: 

SA on track to receive the vaccines

Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize said South Africa is on track to receive COVID-19 vaccines on the agreed-upon date. Mkhize said the government is negotiating for another batch of vaccines from various manufacturers.

“I did say it will be arriving in January. The real challenge is the day-to-day changes with signatures, but we are assured of the date we have agreed upon. As soon as the vaccines come, we will then start the vaccination programme in February. Our plans are on course, that we will be able to take our health workers through on that programme. We are anticipating a million and next month, we are expecting another 500 000. The rest of the dosages will be announced once the agreements are confirmed.”

Frontline workers will be prioritised.

SA’s vaccination strategy:

The flight with the vaccines will depart India to South Africa on Sunday.

The country plans to vaccinate 67% of the population, roughly 40 million people in order to achieve population immunity.

 

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