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THE BIG STORY: COME AT ME, VACCINES

As more than one tweeter put it this week, not since 2013 has a plane landing from India been so anticipated in SA. This time, it’s not the Gupta family touching down at an airforce base for a raucous family wedding: it’s the arrival of the first batch of vaccines in SA from the Serum Institute of India. The plane carrying this precious cargo will arrive on Monday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Wednesday night.

These first vaccines will go to our healthcare workers, who are battling the disease under extremely difficult circumstances. Mkhize outlined the government’s updated vaccines plan, after weeks of speculation as to whether one existed at all. Turns out many armchair critics had perhaps prematurely panicked.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Regulators will take 10-14 days to clear the vaccines before they’re sent to the provinces.
  • 30 million doses have been secured in total. Apart from the 1.5 million from India, we will get another 12 million doses from international vaccine vehicle Covax and an additional 12.5 million doses via the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team – the first tranches of both are set to arrive between March and June.
  • The plan is to vaccinate 40 million people, or 67% of the population, before the end of the year. This would achieve herd immunity.
  • The programme will be rolled out in three phases, starting with healthcare workers, the elderly, essential workers, and people with underlying health conditions.
  • The rest of the adult population will be vaccinated last.
  • No one will have to pay for the vaccine upfront. Government will pay for those who are uninsured, and medical aids will pay for those who are.
  • Everyone will get a vaccination card and will be put on a national registry.
  • We’ll know more about where the money will come from in the 2021 budget announcement, happening in February; the Solidarity Fund will also chip in.

Mkhize assured us that the vaccines have been gone through all the proper testing and that they’re safe for use. As The Economist pointed out this week, vaccination campaigns can take a while to show fruit. But it is the best chance we have at stopping this pandemic once and for all. 

This article was originally published in The Wrap here.

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