JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa aims to more than double the rate of daily COVID-19 vaccinations over the next month to more than 200,000 as more Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson shots arrive, health officials said on Friday.
The country’s vaccination campaign has started slowly, set back by the revelation that AstraZeneca’s vaccine is much less effective against the dominant local coronavirus variant.
The government found it difficult to secure supplies from other manufacturers given huge global demand.
So far, only 2.5 million vaccinations have been administered using either the one-shot J&J vaccine or the two-shot Pfizer alternative, out of a population of 60 million people, health ministry data show.
“Now we are able to do, and we have done, just over 100,000 a day for the last two days. Our target for next week is to get up to 150,000 a day, and by mid-July 200,000 a day with a target by the end of July of being able to have enough resources in the field to do 250,000 vaccinations a day,” Nicholas Crisp, a senior official involved in the vaccine rollout, told a news conference.
“The president has asked us to chase a target of 300,000 a day, and I think all of us in the vaccination response programme are going to work hard to try and get to that point,” he added.
Acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said Pfizer had delivered nearly 4.5 million vaccine doses in the second quarter and had committed to provide just over 15.5 million doses in the third quarter, including nearly 2.1 million doses in July.
In total South Africa has secured 30 million Pfizer shots and 31 million from J&J.
J&J has delivered 500,000 shots for a research study targeting healthcare workers, 300,000 last week and 1.2 million on Thursday, Kubayi-Ngubane said. A further 500,000 J&J doses are expected soon, but the timing is not yet confirmed.
“With this flow of vaccines, we will be able to press ahead with the vaccination of frontline workers sector by sector,” she said. So far South Africa has started immunising health workers, those aged over 60 years and education sector employees.
From July 15, the over-50s will start getting the vaccine, the acting minister said.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning, editing by Louise Heavens)