South Africa says it will import 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to inoculate the country’s health workers. This is South Africa’s first announcement of the purchase of vaccines for the coronavirus disease 2019 as its cases soar.
The first 1 million doses will be delivered later this month from the Serum Institute of India, followed by an additional 500,000 doses in February, Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize announced Thursday.
South Africa is battling a dramatic resurgence of Covid-19 cases that is quickly outstripping its first peak. It announced record highs of 21,832 new confirmed cases and 844 deaths late Wednesday.
Some of South Africa’s hospitals are already reporting that they are at capacity. The rapid spread of the disease in recent weeks has been driven by a new, more infectious variant of the virus, according to medical experts.
The country of 60 million people has reported by far the most cases of Covid-19 in Africa, with more than 1.1 million confirmed infections, including 31,368 deaths, representing more than 30 percent of all cases on the continent of 1.3 billion.
South Africa is not the first country on the 54-nation continent to announce a vaccine deal. Last month, Morocco announced it had ordered 65 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from China’s Sinopharm and Britain’s AstraZeneca.
South Africa has 1.25 million health care workers in public and private hospitals, and the government has decided they should have first priority in getting protection from Covid-19, Mkhize said. SOVEREIGNPH