Plans to vaccinate 65% of the population by the end of this year might have to be revised, because the supply of vaccines remains constrained, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize during a question and answer session in parliament.
Although Mkhize could not give the exact date of the mass vaccination rollout, he said the plan to start in April remained unchanged.
The department anticipated that the vaccine supply would improve by the beginning of the first quarter, because it has signed agreements with Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson (J&J).
“We anticipate that the number of vaccines will rapidly increase from April, May, June and therefore we will be able to increase the number of people who will get vaccinated.
“When all the numbers are announced, and we start accelerating in April, we will be able to relook and revise what the ultimate numbers would have been at by the end of the year.”
According to the current agreements, 43-million doses have been secured. Vaccines will be delivered every quarter. The first 80 000 doses from J&J are being used in an implementation study by the South African Medical Research Council and the health department.
By March 8, more than 107 000 health workers had been vaccinated, Mkhize said.
In the second phase, at least eight million doses are expected to be delivered, with five million coming from Pfizer and three million from J&J, which will be used to vaccinate healthcare workers.
More than 11.6-million doses are expected in the third phase (July to September), with 7.6-million doses coming from Pfizer and four million doses from J&J.
In the fourth phase, from October to December, Pfizer is expected to deliver seven million doses and J&J four million doses.
Achieving the target of inoculating 40-million South Africans will depend on the finalisation of other deals that Mkhize said the department was working on.