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‘A herd immunity or population immunity’, is achievable, Ramaphosa


12 January 2021

Staff Reporter/PretoriaLIVE 

PRETORIA – President Ramaphosa on Monday said government is on an effective massive vaccine programme for all South Africans that will see immunity across the population.

When the entire population has been vaccinated against the global pandemic, the country will reach a level known as ‘ herd immunity’ or ‘population immunity’. The development of several effective vaccines is the most significant and most promising advance since the onset of the global pandemic.

“This is when enough of the population is immune to the virus to provide indirect protection to those who aren’t immune, bringing the spread of the virus under control,” said Ramaphosa.

“We have always said that an effective vaccine will be a game-changer. Vaccines offer to the peoples of the world a means to control the coronavirus pandemic. A person who is vaccinated has a much reduced chance of becoming ill and dying from COVID-19.

“While the actual level needed for herd immunity is not known, our scientists estimate that we will likely reach herd immunity once around 67 per cent of our population are immune. This amounts to around 40 million people in South Africa.”

The President underscored that government have put in place a comprehensive vaccination strategy to reach all parts of the country and it will be the largest and most complex logistical undertaking in our country’s history

“It will be far more extensive than our HIV treatment programme or even our national, provincial and local elections in terms of the number of people who have to be reached within a short space of time.”

The strategy by government to reach ‘ a herd immunity’ requires three parts of implementation which involves  different age groups of the population.

“The first part of our strategy is to acquire enough vaccine doses to reach herd immunity.

The government is in the process of procuring vaccines through three channels: through the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility, through the African Union’s vaccine initiative and through direct engagements with vaccine manufacturers. South Africa is part of the global COVAX facility.

Ramaphosa said, “ As the chair of the African Union, we initiated the establishment of an African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team to source vaccine doses for the continent. These will be purchased in bulk and African countries will be able to order vaccine doses from this pool.”

The second part of our strategy is to identify the priority groups that need to be vaccinated as we receive vaccine doses throughout the year.

“ In  Phase 1, with the first batch of vaccines, we will prioritise around 1.2 million front line health workers.”

In Phase 2, when more vaccines arrive, “We will prioritise essential workers such as teachers, police, municipal workers and other frontline personnel. We will also prioritise people in institutions like old age homes, shelters and prisons, people over 60 years of age and adults with co-morbidities.

“In Phase 3, with increased manufacturer supplies, we will then vaccinate the remaining adult population of approximately 22.5 million people.

“We will then have reached around 40 million South Africans, which is considered to approximate herd immunity.The third part of our strategy is to distribute the vaccines throughout the country and to administer them to those who have been identified to receive them,” The President maintained.

“We will administer vaccinations through hospitals, clinics, outreach services and mobile clinics, and private settings such as doctor’s offices, pharmacies and work places.

“We see a vital role for organised labour, traditional leaders and the religious community in the dissemination of accurate information on vaccine,”added Ramaphosa.