NATIONAL NEWS - During President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2021 State of the Nation (Sona) address, four priority areas were identified as essential as the country starts to rebuild from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
These, he said, are:
- Defeat the pandemic, which is primary in everything we have to do as a nation;
- We must accelerate economic recovery;
- We must implement economic reforms to create sustainable jobs and drive inclusive growth; and
- We must fight corruption and strengthen the state that has been weakened.
News of when South Africans can expect to get the Covid-19 jab has become more urgent in light of the recent blow in the country’s search for herd immunity.
The country received one million Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine vials, but it later emerged that it offered “minimal protection” against South Africa’s dangerous variant strain.
A new variation of the AstraZeneca vaccine will likely only be available in November or December this year.
Healthcare workers are the first due to receive the vaccine, and the country must reach 67% of its population in order to reach herd immunity against the virus.
As of Wednesday night, there were 1,482,412 confirmed Covid-19 cases. More than 47,000 people have died, and thousands more left jobless due to the pandemic.
‘A time for change’
“The year ahead must be a time for change, progress and rebirth. It must be a year in which we rise as a people and we do things that are going to make us rise. This is no ordinary year and this is no ordinary Sona,” Ramaphosa said.
He explained how the country was just starting to emerge from second wave, which has driven by the new variant, 501Y.V2.
“But the human cost could have been far greater had we not restricted movement and prepared health facilities and protocols of health.”
He outlined the mass vaccination programme that has been undertaken to save lives and reduce infections. This programme will now be adapted to deal with the AstraZeneca vaccine blow.
“This should not delay start of programme by much, but will affect the choice of vaccines and manner of deployment.”
He confirmed that as part of phase 1 of the vaccine plan, healthcare and frontline workers will now receive the Johnson&Johnson vaccine which is more effective against the local variant.
Nine million doses have been secured, and the first batch of 80,000 will arrive in South Africa next week. Further consignments will arrive over next four weeks, totalling 500,000 vaccines doses. All provinces have already rolled out plans to enable the first vaccines to be administered.
In addition, South Africa has secured 12 million vaccines from the Covax facility. This will compliment other vaccines available to the country through the African Union’s acquisition task team facility.
Pfizer has also committed to producing 20 million vaccine doses, deliveries of which can be expected at the end of first quarter.
“We are continuing engagement with manufacturers to secure sufficient quantities suitable to our conditions. Health and safety is our paramount concern.”
As such, all medication will be monitored, evaluated and inspected and regulated by South African Health Products Regulatory Authority.
Active collaboration between all sectors is also important to curb infections, Ramaphosa said.
“We are encouraged by the active involvement of business, labour, health, industry players, and medical aid schemes.”