Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist

SA will reach herd immunity by 2039 at current vaccination pace

Dr Jo Barnes, Stellenbosch University epidemiologist, does not think the 67% target can be reached, unless more than 95,000 are vaccinated per day.

Scientists agree that South Africa needs to drastically improve its vaccine rollout programme, if it hopes to reach the targeted 40 million vaccinated citizens by the end of the year, after it was revealed the country is currently about 18 years off the required pace.

At the start of the vaccination programme earlier this year, government a target of of vaccinating 67% of the South African population for Covid-19 herd immunity.

Based on the calculations from Media Hack Collective’s vaccination tracking tool, at the current pace of vaccinations, it will take exactly 18 years, one month and three days to vaccinate the target of 67% of the population-about 40 million people.

mediahack vaccination projection calculator

Picture: Screenshot from Mediahack’s calculator

Also read: Covid-19 herd immunity: political pandering or realistic resolution?

Between 95 000 and 150 000 daily jabs needed to reach target

Dr Jo Barnes, Stellenbosch University epidemiologist and Senior Lecturer Emeritus in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, could not see the target reached at, unless more than 95 000 were vaccinated a day.

She said based on Statistics SA’s 2020 population estimates, there were 59.62 million people and, for ease of calculation it could be assumed there were 60 million people.

Barnes said Statistics SA also estimated that the percentage of people who are below the age of 15 years was 28.6%.

“At present they are not on the list of persons to be vaccinated until later. So that leaves us with a total number of persons to be vaccinated at 42.6 million people. If they want to vaccinate two thirds of the people to get herd immunity then that amounts to 28.52 million people to be vaccinated,” she said.

She said based on calculation estimates, the bottom line is that the government does not have a hope to reach their target even over a number of years at the present rate.

Also read: Here are the 18 sites where SA’s first vaccinations will take place

“They do not even have a formal rollout plan yet and the obstacles in getting the vaccine to so many millions of people are showing up the huge dysfunctional gaps in our health system,” Barnes said.

According to Barnes, if the present rate of an average of 6049 per day continues unchanged into the future, it will take 12.92 years to reach that target.

“…note that is for only one dose per person. If a vaccine needing two doses per person to be effective are used, then this calculation gets even worse,” she said.

Slow delivery of vaccines contributing to slow rollout

Dr Glenda Davison, associate professor and head of the Biomedical Sciences Department at Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town, said she was very concerned at the slow pace of vaccinations.

She said she could only thing this was because SA is only receiving 80 000 of J&J vaccines every two weeks and the third batch of vaccines arrived a few days ago.

“…I do agree with the (Media Hack Collective) calculations. At about 6000 vaccinations per day it will take around 18.26 years to reach 40 million. It would be impossible to reach 67% of the population by the end of the year. The rate of vaccinations and the number of vaccination sites would have to increase dramatically. Most importantly the number of doses reaching South Africa would need to increase,” Davison said.

She said using a very rough calculation, SA would need to vaccinate 150 000 people per day to reach this target.

“I think SA has the capability to achieve this, however, we would need to have access to the vaccines. This seems to be the major problem,” Davison added.

Department’s plans to increase rollout and vaccination sites

The data presented by the health department to the portfolio committee on health this week indicate that the department has reached a similar conclusion with the number of vaccinations needed per day to reach the herd immunity target.

Working with the private sector (sharing 50% of vaccination sites), the health department vaccination targets are between of between 250 000 and 300 000 vaccinations a day.

“(on Tuesday) at the portfolio committee the deputy minister (Dr Joseph Phaahla) reiterated the commitment to target population immunity in the 2021/ 22 financial year,” Dr Lwazi Manzi, health minister Zweli Mkhize’s spokesperson, said on Wednesday.

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