South Africa could begin conducting the first Covid-19 vaccine rollout by winter next year, following positive developments reported this month, said South African Medical Research Council chief executive Glenda Gray.
According to Gray, given that most of the trials South Africa was involved in were in their late stages, the next eight months could be enough time for the country to expect the first doses administered by next winter.
But bilateral agreements with other countries would also be a must, if South Africa was to get as many vaccines to as many people as possible in the country.
Aspen’s South African subsidiary, Aspen Pharmacare, signed a preliminary agreement this month with two Johnson & Johnson (J&J) subsidiaries for the technical transfer and proposed commercial manufacture of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate.
Gray also advised that the department of health and Treasury should begin a costing process concurrently with discussions with the drugs industry.
Epidemiologist Jo Barnes warned that South Africa would have to step up its policing and incorporate basic Covid-19 hygiene into crowd control.
“For example, there are larger crowds gathering to queue at government departments, but I don’t see any attempts by the government to institute crowd control efforts that can help avoid the superspreader events,” she said.
She added South Africa had to prepare for a longer wait than anticipated for enough vaccines to effectively eradicate the disease.
Based on the population’s estimated size, South Africa needed at least 60 million doses, Barnes predicted.
But some of the vaccine trials involved two doses taken two weeks apart. For a country already facing basic service delivery challenges, she said rural areas would be the first to suffer from a possible delay in rollout.
Last week, J&J secured more than $1 billion (about R15 billion) in additional funding for its Covid-19 vaccine research through an expansion of its partnership with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a division of the US department of health and human services.