President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday was emphatic that there will be no repercussions for those who choose not to take the Covid-19 vaccine — even while he encouraged everyone to do so when it was their turn to get their shot.
Addressing the country during his latest “family meeting”, Ramaphosa said: “Nobody will be forced to take this vaccine. Nobody will be forbidden from travelling, from enrolling at school, or from taking part in any public activity if they have not been vaccinated. Nobody will be given this vaccine against their will, nor will the vaccine be administered in secret.”
He called for an end to those who were spreading fake news about the vaccine, adding that this was harmful.
Speaking further about the vaccine, he stressed that it would not be limited to South African citizens, but would be available to all adults living in the country irrespective of their citizenship or residential status.
The administration of the vaccines would be conducted under a veracious system.
“The Department of Health has developed an Electronic Vaccine Data System to streamline the vaccine registration and rollout process. This will allow us to capture all relevant data associated with the administration of the vaccine,” Ramaphosa said. “This system allows a person to make an appointment as soon as they qualify for a vaccination at the vaccine centre closest to them. The system will record vaccinations as they are administered.”
Undocumented migrants, he said, would need to have their vaccination history checked before the Covid-19 vaccine was administered to them.
Under phases one and two of the vaccine rollout, the shots will be administered to health-care workers, other essential workers, the elderly, people with comorbidities and those who are living in nursing homes and hostels.
Phase three, which will see the rest of the country’s adult population being vaccinated, will kick off after this.
While SA received its first million doses of Covishield vaccines from India earlier on Monday, another half a million were expected later this month. A further 12 million doses were expected from the global Covax facility, two million of which would be released by March.
“We have secured nine million vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson, commencing with delivery in the second quarter. Johnson & Johnson has contracted Aspen, one of our pharmaceutical companies, to manufacture these vaccines in SA,” Ramaphosa added.
“In addition, Pfizer has committed 20 million vaccine doses commencing with deliveries in the second quarter. We are in advanced negotiations with manufacturers to secure additional supplies,” he added.
Meanwhile, the country is also set to receive some vaccines through the AU, which has been negotiating with manufacturers to secure vaccines for the entire continent on a pooled basis.
“Through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team of the AU, we have to date secured a billion vaccines for the entire continent,” Ramaphosa said.
“Seven hundred million of these will come from the global Covax facility and 300 million have been facilitated by the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. We will be getting other vaccines that will be donated by various private sector companies to add to the vaccines that our continent needs,” he added.
One of these sponsors is telecommunications company MTN.
“MTN, which is one of our companies that operates across a number of countries on the African continent, has made a donation of $25m (about R376.7m) to procure seven million vaccines, which will be made available to countries on the African continent within a matter of weeks,” he added.
“We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to make sure that enough vaccine doses are secured to reach population immunity in our country,” Ramaphosa added.
Ramaphosa said clinical trials had been conducted to determine the side effects and safety concerns of these vaccines and, so far, those being obtained by SA have been shown to be safe.
“We all want to be free of this disease. We all want to be safe, and for those we love to be safe,” he added.
Meanwhile, hours after SA received its first million doses of the vaccine, Ramaphosa announced a lift on some of the tough restrictions that have been in place as the country battled soaring Covid-19 infections.
These included the lift of the ban of alcohol sales and distribution, a lift of the ban of usage of beaches and church gatherings, and a reduction of the curfew.