South Africans will likely receive a Covid 19 vaccine in the second quarter of next year, and not everyone will be on the initial list.
The first in line are likely to be healthcare professionals, followed by the elderly as the country undertakes a nationwide rollout, which may face logistical hurdles.
There has been good news lately with three pharmaceutical giants revealing their vaccine trials showing promising results.
Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was found to be 95% effective, while Moderna’s vaccine reduced the risk of catching the virus by 94.5%. This week, it was announced that the Oxford vaccine has shown a strong immune response in the elderly. The news comes as most of Europe is experiencing a second wave of the virus and infection rates start to rise again in South Africa.
But as these vaccines become available, Rajesh Narwal, health systems adviser at the World Health Organization (WHO), believes nations will rush to secure stocks.
“The point is, a lot of these vaccines have already been pre-purchased by richer countries,” said Narwal, who was speaking yesterday in a webinar on the implications of an international Covid 19 vaccination policy.
But the WHO is ensuring that other countries have access to vaccines, even if that will mean producing two billion units by the end of 2021.
This will be through the COVAX program which was launched in April by the WHO, the European Commission and France. COVAX aims in part to ensure universal access to any Covid-19 vaccine.
Narwal expects South Africa to see the arrival of a vaccine be in the first quarter of next year, but more likely in the second quarter.
Like other countries, South Africa should take a step-by-step approach. The first step would see the health workers prioritized and vaccinated, they would be followed by the elderly. The second stage will see 11% to 20% of the population vaccinated, where people with comorbidities and high priority teachers will be vaccinated. In the third stage, up to 50% of the population will be vaccinated, including other essential agents.
“This access must be done in a way that does not put pressure on economies and populations,” he added. The vaccine is likely to be a double dose combination.
One concern of Narwal is that anti-vaxxers refuse to be vaccinated.
“A lot also depends on which vaccine countries adopt,” Narwal said.
On COVAX, the poorest countries will pay between $ 1 and $ 3 a dose.
Narwhal further warns that any delay in taking steps to prepare for the vaccine’s arrival could cost a country lives and economies.
Khadija Jamaloodien of the National Department of Health, said the government had put in place measures to facilitate the arrival of a vaccine. A ministerial advisory committee on the Covid-19 vaccine has been created. There is also a national policy framework, designed to make recommendations to the Minister on funding, cost implications and other matters. The national strategic framework is still being developed, although different groups within it, Jamaloodien said, are working on vaccine-related issues.
“The goal is to have access to and deliver a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine,” she said.
But if South Africa were to adopt the method of manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines, there will be a number of obstacles, said Glaudina Loots, director of health innovation in the science and technology department. .
She said making a vaccine is difficult. Setting up a facility to manufacture a vaccine in Africa would also be costly. “To build capacity across Africa, we must take into account that we need R 2 billion to create a facility capable of filling 500 million doses, and the establishment of this facility will take two years. . ” she says.
An additional R2bn would be required for manufacturing.
In the meantime, Narwal has warned that health officials and South Africans must guard against viral fatigue as we enter the holiday season and await the expected arrival of the vaccine next year.
The Saturday Star