South Africa plans to administer coronavirus vaccines to up to 200,000 people a day beginning around May, the Sunday Times newspaper said on Sunday, citing Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
According to the report, more than 2,000 vaccination sites will be set up. The plan is based on the expected arrival of the first batch of 2.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses at the end of April, the newspaper said.
The Health Ministry did not respond to telephone calls and text messages from Reuters seeking comment.
South Africa has been the hardest hit nation on the continent by COVID-19. It has recorded both the highest number of cases in Africa – more than 1.5 million – and of deaths, with more than 50,000 fatalities.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The vaccination rollout has been slow, with only 231,605 people, mainly frontline health workers, inoculated so far. The government plans to vaccinate 40 million people, or two-thirds of the population.
After pausing the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine in February, South Africa started inoculating healthcare workers with Johnson & Johnson shots.The government previously said it had secured 20 million doses of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in bilateral negotiations, with deliveries ramping up from the second quarter of the year.