Covid-19 Vaccines – South Africa’s race against time

January 31, 2021
Covid-19 Vaccines – South Africa’s race against time

Article written by

Paramesh Dayaram


Vaccines on the horizon

South Africa is set to receive its first batch of vaccines from the Serum Institute of India. The global demand for vaccines, coupled with the greater buying power of wealthier countries, amongst various other theories, has resulted in South Africa lagging behind in the race to vaccinate its population.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, writing in his weekly public newsletter, stated that through extensive, albeit ‘protracted’ negotiations with various manufactures, and initiatives with COVAX and AVATT, the country should have sufficient vaccines to contain the spread of the virus.

Deputy Director-General for the National Department of Health, Dr Anban Pillay, speaking in an interview with SABC, confirmed that South Africa at this point does not know what portion we will receive of the 150 million vaccines to be released in the first quarter distribution by COVAX. When South African receives its full tranche from COVAX, this will cover 10% of the population.

As the media swirls around the higher prices South Africa has paid for vaccines from the Serum Institute of India as compared to EU countries, Dr Pillay says the lower prices these countries are paying is a result of their earlier financial investment into the research and development of the vaccine. SA has paid the standard price as determined by the country’s economic status.

Experts are predicting a third wave as a result of the vaccine delay, and some vaccine developers are warning that the vaccines may need to be updated periodically to maintain its efficacy.

While South Africa faces a myriad of battles for the acquisition of the vaccine, perhaps its biggest battle is against time. Will South Africa receive enough vaccines to achieve herd immunity, and will we receive them in time?

Vaccine roll-out

The roll-out of the vaccine for South Africa will be phased, the basis of the strategy for the vaccine is:

Phase One

  • Front line health care workers (HCW). Target population: 1,250,000

Phase Two

  • Essential workers. Target population: 2,500,000
  • Persons in congregate settings. Target population: 1,100,000
  • Persons older than 60 years. Target population: 5,000,000
  • Persons older than18 years with co-morbidities. Target population: 8,000,000

Phase 3

  • Other persons older than 18 years. Target population: 22,500,000

Private Healthcare System

The Covid-19 vaccine has been included in the amended Prescribed Minimum Benefit regulations, as approved by Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize. This essentially means the vaccine will need to be funded by medical schemes.

According to CMS, there are still several issues that need further exploration:

  • A clear criterion of ‘prioritised populations’
  • Clinical guidelines and protocols
  • Guidelines on medical schemes liquidity management and scheme reserve requirements
  • The vaccine finding model and mechanism
  • Other persons older than 18 years. Target population: 22,500,000

It has been reiterated that the vaccine roll-out will be led nationally, there will be one procurement approach and the government will then work with provincial colleagues and the private sector for distribution.

The medical schemes will ultimately be led by government’s phased approached in the roll-out of the vaccines to its members.

Global Access

South Africa’s dual-health system has joined forces, resulting in the private sector pledging funding for millions of vaccines for uncovered South Africans, a step in the right direction as the world faces the moral dilemma of equitable access to vaccines.

Dr Tedros, Director-General of the World Health Organisation fittingly said, “No vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as COVID-19 vaccines. The scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development. Now the international community must set a new standard for access globally.”


Kim Potgieter and Head of Healthcare for Chartered Employee Benefits, Paramesh Dayaram, discuss the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination.

PLEASE NOTE: During the podcast, Paramesh Dayaram stated that there were only 1,5 million COVID cases recorded. He apologizes for this as it is actually 105 million cases recorded.

Article written by

Paramesh Dayaram


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