Cyril Ramaphosa said with the arrival of the consignment, which is expected soon, the country will launch a mass vaccination campaign.
“It will reach all parts of the country and will be phased to ensure that those most in need are prioritized,” the president wrote in his weekly column to the nation on Monday.
He said the first vaccines to arrive will be provided to healthcare workers.
The second phase will include essential workers, teachers, the elderly and those with comorbidities, Ramaphosa said, adding: “The third phase will include other adults in the population.”
South Africa has the highest numbers of COVID-19 infections on the continent with 1.4 million cases and 40,874 deaths recorded so far. It is the 15th most-affected country globally.
Ramaphosa said his country could not get the vaccine straightaway due to the unprecedented global demand for vaccine doses, and the far greater buying power of wealthier countries.
“We had to engage in extensive and protracted negotiations with manufacturers to secure enough vaccines to reach South Africa’s adult population,” Ramaphosa said.
He added that his country also worked closely with the global COVAX facility and the African Union’s Vaccine Acquisition Task Team as part of the collective effort to secure vaccines for the world’s low- and middle-income countries.
The president did not, however, state how much a dose of the vaccine will cost the country, but state broadcaster SABC quoted reports and sources, claiming the country will be paying just over $5 per dose.
The broadcaster further said South Africa will be paying a high price because it has been categorized as an upper-middle-income country.
As the African continent struggles to acquire Covid-19 vaccine doses and kickstart inoculation campaigns, the South African president has pleaded with rich nations to stop stockpiling more than they need.
“We are concerned by vaccine nationalism. The rich countries in the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines from the developers and manufacturers of these vaccines,” the president said on Tuesday, during an address to the World Economic Forum.
“Some countries went beyond and acquired up to four times what their population needs. This is being done to the exclusion of other countries in the world,” said Ramaphosa, who chairs the African Union. ■