News analysis

President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa during his address on Monday. (GCIS)
  • South Africa is on track to secure 20 million doses of vaccine against Covid-19, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation on Monday.
  • Negotiations are daily and constant, he said.
  • But he could share no actual details of any progress, or specific acquisition plans, or when he may have more details. 
  • "Understandably we all want to know when the vaccines will be arriving," he said, before promising "transparency".
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africans are very keen to know when Covid-19 vaccines will be available to them, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday. But he had no answers, other than broad reassurances.

"South Africa’s vaccine strategy is well underway," Ramaphosa said in a televised address after which, as usual, he took no questions.

"Understandably we all want to know when the vaccines will be arriving. Everybody asks that question, and they want the vaccines to arrive yesterday. As we work to secure the supply of sufficient doses in the midst of huge global demand, we are doing and will continue to do everything that’s possible to ensure that the process is both transparent, and it’s handled most effectively and efficiently, and that information is made available to South Africans."

Ramaphosa stressed the importance of vaccines – and said his government had always recognised that importance.

"We’ve always said that an effective vaccine will in the end be a game-changer against our fight to Covid-19," he said.

"Vaccines offer to the peoples of the world a means to control the coronavirus pandemic."

But when, exactly, South Africa would have that power, he could not say.

A task team for the African Union was doing "tremendous work", he said, while South Africa's direct engagement with vaccine suppliers – "for the past six months" - was seeing "daily and constant negotiations".

More details would be announced when deals were concluded, he said, referring only to 20 million doses of vaccine, with the bulk hoped for during early 2021.

See also | There will now be only six valid reasons to cross SA’s land borders – until mid-February

The vast majority of the vaccines South Africa hopes to purchase require two doses per person, so that 20 million doses equate to 10 million people with presumed immunity from the coronavirus.

South Africa hopes to vaccinate some 40 million individuals in order to reach herd or population immunity, Ramaphosa reiterated.

The AstraZeneca shot most South Africans are likely to receive requires a repeat after at least four weeks, and no more than 12 weeks.

The vaccination project will be "the largest and most complex logistical undertaking in our country’s history," Ramaphosa said, more extensive, in terms of the required reach and speed, than elections. 

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