Government signs up for 20 million Pfizer vaccines – but rollout still slow

Dylan Bettencourt

The South African Department of Health has secured 20 million Covid-19 vaccines from pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

This double-dose vaccine is expected to arrive in South Africa in the next two weeks. 

30 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines have already been lined up. 

Despite these promising numbers, only a small number of vaccines have been administered so far – an average of 5,700 a day. 

South Africa is still in phase one of the vaccine rollouts which only includes frontline health workers being able to get the vaccine. 

Phase two of the rollout is expected to begin in May and will run until October. Phase two will allow essential workers, people over 60 and those with existing comorbidities to get vaccinated.

The government wants the second phase of the rollout to vaccinate 13 million South Africans in the six-month period before phase three begins in November. Phase three targets remaining South Africans. 

Professor Glenda Gray, Medical Research Council chief executive, believes the new vaccines will accelerate the rollout process, but said the vaccination process was more complicated than people think. 

She said: “The Pfizer vials have six doses per vial and the Johnson & Johnson two. Our vaccinators need to know how it goes into the syringe and ensure they’re not under or overdosing, which requires good oversight of the whole process to ensure critical vigilance and safety.”

Picture source: @ITV