[imagesource: Siphiwe Sibeko / AP]
Recently, during an address to the nation, US President Joe Biden said the country wanted to return to a degree of normalcy from July 4.
A sort of Independence Day from COVID-19, if you will, with small groups allowed to gather as the country’s vaccine rollout plan moved swiftly along.
At present, well over 100 million vaccine doses have been administered, with the US dishing out more than two million a day.
Fancy a guess at how many South Africans are being vaccinated daily, with our rollout having started on February 17? Using information from the Department of Health’s Twitter account, our total stood at 145 544 as of March 14.
Yesterday, the number was 147 753, meaning we vaccinated 2 209 people over a 24-hour period.
Put simply, that is just not good enough.
Of course, we had the massive speed bump of abandoning the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after complications arising from the efficacy of it against the COVID-19 variant 501Y.V2, but let’s not forget about the circus that greeted that batch arriving.
Politicians patting themselves on the back for a job well done, yet a month and a half later, we are nowhere closer to achieving any sort of vaccine herd immunity.
We have become so used to gross government failure, and that’s what we’re looking at again here, with this via BusinessTech:
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has tacitly admitted that government is likely to miss its target of 67% of the population vaccinated by the end of the year.
Responding to questions in parliament on Wednesday (10 March), Mkhize said the annual target is constantly reviewed amid new data inflow.
Government had initially aimed to vaccinate 1.5 million people by the end of March, and 42 million people by December. However, with 16 days remaining in the month, this target is unlikely to be met, as it would require some 82,000 vaccinations daily. The country does not have the manpower, or vaccines.
We wanted to crack 42 million by December. Mark that number down, because we are in for a shock.
The DA has been watching closely, and is chomping at the bit to draw attention to the snail-like speed of the vaccine rollout.
Anything to distract from the party’s perpetual state of internal upheaval, but on this front, it’s very much a point that needs to be made.
Siviwe Gwarube, DA member of Parliament and health spokesperson for the party, says we are headed for another crisis, reports City Press:
“While the government has tried to create the impression that South Africa has started its vaccine programme, the truth is that the vaccines being administered thus far are merely part of a Johnson & Johnson trial – the Sisonke Protocol.
This part of the vaccine roll-out phase is perhaps the simplest as it targets healthcare workers in healthcare facilities.”
“What is an impending crisis is how we are intending on reaching the millions of remaining healthcare workers and the most vulnerable who require the vaccine when we can hardly put together 10 000 vaccinations per day,” said Gwarube on Monday
At the current pace of vaccination, it would take almost 11 years to reach the desired target of 40 million vaccinations.
Data journalists at the Media Hack Collective have put together a tool that allows you to track how long it will take to reach the required vaccine target.
At the current rate, for example:
If we managed to speed things up, and vaccinate a cool 106 000 people a day, we would be looking at…
So even if we ramp things up massively, we are looking at a good year before we hit our target.
You can dabble with your own numbers here.
That doesn’t take into account that there are many who don’t want to take the vaccine, and with President Ramaphosa having stated that people won’t be vaccinated against their will, there’s a battle to be fought on that front, too.
DA political points-scoring and deflection aside, the fact is that we are nowhere near where we need to be, even taking the AstraZeneca vaccine setback into account.
South Africa is not alone in the struggle to acquire sufficient doses of an effective vaccine, and countries around the world have failed with the initial stages of their vaccine rollout process.
However, if you have faith that this government of ours, run by a ruling party that serves its best interests first, with everything else an afterthought, then you’re more of an optimist than many.
That third wave will arrive, long before we have adequate vaccine rollout plans in place, so it’s best that we continue to do what we can to prevent the spread of this virus with responsible behaviour on our parts.
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