News analysis

Vaccine boxes during shipping.
A shipment of the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine being scanned during distribution in the USA, on 13 December 2020. (Getty)
  • South Africa has a deal for enough vaccines to cover 10% of the population, probably starting from April, and hopes to reach 67% coverage during 2021.
  • Several developed countries – and a couple of less developed ones – have secured the supplies to vaccinate more than 100% of their populations.
  • Countries with better high levels of coronavirus vaccine already secured include Nepal, Panama, Mexico, and Uzbekistan.
  • Israel is considered the current world leader in vaccinations. 10% of its population has already received one shot, and it should hit 20% before the end of January.
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South Africa hopes to be able to vaccinate up to 67% of its population before the end of 2021, health minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Sunday, though it has not yet secured the necessary vaccines.

At the moment SA's sole sealed agreement remains with the COVAX initiative, to buy enough doses for one out of every 10 South Africans.

The government says rich countries gobbled up the available supply of vaccines first, and that it is in talks with a number of parties, but can not disclose details due to the sensitivity of negotiations and non-disclosure agreements.

But global numbers tell a different story.

A group of 40 countries has each announced deals for more than one million doses of vaccine each, from 16 different suppliers. Some have secured a very large number of vaccines, with Canada's agreement providing for 500% population coverage.

Actually getting hold of those vaccines and administering them may take much of 2021, though, with Canada estimating availability for the general public not at high risk of Covid-19 to come around September.

Israel, meanwhile, has not secured such vast stocks of vaccine, but is currently considered the world leader for the sheer speed of its rollout. More than 10% of its population has already received one dose, and it expects to have two million vaccinated citizens by the end of the month.

Other countries that have secured enough vaccine for every citizen include Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, the UK, USA, and all of the European Union.

But those developed countries are not alone. Countries that, based on available data, have secured stock for at least 80% vaccine coverage, also include:

  • Chile
  • Mexico
  • Uzbekistan
  • Panama
  • Indonesia
  • Costa Rica
  • Nepal

Elsewhere on the African continent, Egypt should already be able to vaccinate 50% of its population, and Morocco 30%.

Also ahead of South Africa, with enough confirmed vaccines for at least 30% of people, are variously troubled countries such as Lebanon, El Salvador, Colombia, and Venezuela.

Those that have not secured supplies will increasingly struggle to do so, worldwide numbers suggest. Though manufacturing can and will scale up rapidly, there are hard limits on how much vaccine the world can make. Current modelling suggests it will be 2023, or perhaps 2024, before there is enough coronavirus vaccine for everyone on the planet.

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