“We have long held the view that a vaccine would be our most decisive measure to combat COVID-19, and to that extent set up processes at a continental and national level to prepare for the availability of an effective vaccine. Like many countries, we have now started our vaccination programme,” said the president as he was addressing the nation on Sunday, the 28th of February.
The president said that in the 10 days since the launch of the coronavirus vaccination programme, more than 67,000 health workers who are on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, have been vaccinated. He announced that a new batch of 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrived in the country the day before and the government is steadily increasing the number of doses administered each day.
“The start of our vaccination campaign has gone extremely well. It has shown what we can achieve when we work together as government, the scientific community and the private sector. All provinces have established vaccination sites and have put in place plans for the expansion of the programme as it gains momentum,” he added.
Ramaphosa said the number of vaccination sites will be expanded from 17 sites to 49 sites. He said out of the 49 sites, 32 will be at public hospitals and 17 sites in private hospitals. He also added that this will include sites in rural areas to improve access to rural healthcare workers.
The president also announced that once the vaccination of healthcare workers has been completed, phase two of the vaccine roll-out will be started in late April or early May. He explained that this phase will include the elderly, essential workers, persons living or working in institutional settings and those with co-morbidities.
Ramaphosa said more vaccination sites will be activated for phase two so. He said these includes those in the public and private healthcare sector so that as many people as possible can be reached in the shortest possible time. He also added that the government is in constant contact with various other vaccine manufacturers to ensure that there are necessary quantities of vaccines when needed.
“We have recently signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson to secure 11 million doses. Of these doses, 2.8 million doses will be delivered in the second quarter and the rest spread throughout the year. We have also secured 20 million doses from Pfizer, which will be delivered from the second quarter. Additionally, we have secured 12 million vaccine doses from the COVAX facility and are in the process of finalising our dose allocation from the African Union,” said Ramaphosa.
“Please go for a test if you have any symptoms of COVID-19. These measures are not merely to protect each of us but to also protect those we love and care for. Following these measures is about protecting yourself, your family and your community. It is about being responsible and caring. We must continue these measures even as more and more people are vaccinated,” he said.
The president also told the public that vaccines significantly reduce the likelihood of a person developing symptoms and becoming seriously ill, and that they reduce the overall rate of infection in a population. He said people must see vaccines as one of the measures that are in the coronavirus toolkit to contain the pandemic.
“As we have said in the past vaccines are now the most effective measure that we have. Still, we will only be able to ultimately overcome the pandemic if we continue to practice all the other prevention measures as well. We must do all this both so that we defeat the pandemic and so that we can accelerate our economic recovery. We must do this to restore our country to growth and get people back into work,” he said.