South Africa’s next challenge in the Covid-19 battle would be to ensure that everyone is involved in the vaccination campaign, and that nobody is left behind.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said, on Monday in his newsletter to the nation, that the Covid-19 mass vaccination campaign – which will see the country soon receiving its first consignment of vaccines from the Serum Institute in India – will be the most ambitious and extensive in the country’s history.
“It will reach all parts of the country and will be phased to ensure that those most in need are prioritised. The first vaccines to arrive will be provided to healthcare workers, who will be targeted in the first phase. The second phase will include essential workers, teachers, the elderly and those with co-morbidities. The third phase will include other adults in the population,” he said.
A comprehensive roll-out strategy and an accompanying logistical framework would be implemented in partnership with the private sector, civil society, traditional leadership, the religious sector and others.
“It is vital that this is a society-wide campaign, in which everyone is involved and no-one is left behind,” Ramaphosa said.
Given the unprecedented global demand for vaccine doses, combined with the far greater buying power of wealthier countries, the government had to engage in extensive and protracted negotiations with manufacturers to secure enough vaccines to reach South Africa’s adult population.
This included working with the global Covax facility and the African Union’s Vaccine Acquisition Task Team as part of the collective effort to secure vaccines for the world’s low- and middle-income countries.
“The doses that South Africa will receive through its participation in these initiatives, together with the agreements being made directly with manufacturers, should ensure that the country has sufficient vaccines to contain the spread of the virus,” he said.
Ramaphosa maintained that, from the moment the coronavirus first reached our shores in March last year, the government had acted swiftly and decisively, and informed by the best available scientific evidence, to save lives and protect livelihoods.
“Through the measures we have taken, we have been able to contain infections, protect our health system and prevent an even greater loss of life.”
He understood that there was concern that government had not been sufficiently transparent about efforts to secure vaccines, but he said the details of deals with manufacturers would be released as and when negotiations are concluded and we are released from the communications terms of the non-disclosure agreements.
“This is commonplace in such circumstances, and most governments have had to comply with similar restrictions,” he said.
He added that it was important that the public must be kept abreast of developments on vaccine acquisition at all times, and that government must be held to account for all the decisions it makes in this regard.
“When it comes to fighting a deadly pandemic like this, honesty and trust are just as valuable as any vaccine,” Ramaphosa said.
Through Government Communications, he said, the government had embarked on an extensive communications campaign to educate the population about the Covid-19 vaccine, and to challenge many of the misconceptions in circulation.
“All of us need to be part of this national effort and not allow the spread of rumours, fear and mistrust. False information and fake news can and does put lives at risk,” he said.
“We all need to work together to build confidence in the vaccine, to demonstrate its effectiveness and its safety – and to emphasise its vital importance in overcoming this deadly disease.”