The Western Cape government health department hopes to vaccinate around five million people in the province.

This is according to provincial head of health, Dr Keith Cloete during the Covid-19 digicon on Tuesday.

“The vaccine is the most powerful global weapon to turn the tide against the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr Cloete.

The National Department of Health is driving the procurement process, and the country is scheduled to receive one million doses of the Covishield vaccine from the Serum Institute of India, by the end of January and a further 500 000 doses in February.

“This vaccine is produced by the Serum Institute and that is out of the research of AstraZeneca with Oxford University.

“They’ve given the rights to the Serum Institute to produce the vaccine based on the vaccine that they have trialled in their successful trails.”

The objective of the vaccine roll-out is to prevent severe illness and death, reduce Covid-19 transmissions and to protect the health-care systems, said Dr Cloete.

Three vaccines are currently licensed – the Oxford- AstraZeneca produced Covishield; BioNTech/ Pfizer’s Comirnaty and Moderna (name pending).

In terms of Covishield, dosing would include two shots, four weeks apart.

Storage temperature required is that of a standard fridge and with a shelf life of six months,

The approximate cost of the vaccine is $4 (about R60).

The availability of the vaccine is wide due to partnerships with around 10 major pharmaceutical companies.

“Currently it is probably the best choice for wide use in SA because it is the biggest currently available and is being produced at a big scale that we can have access to,” said Cloete.

“What the vaccine brings you is a 70% less chance of getting Covid-19, but when you do get Covid-19 a much milder form that you don’t get hospitalised and you don’t die.”

Common side effects would include discomfort at the injection site (usually upper arm), and flu-like symptoms clearing between four to five days.

“This is not Covid-19, this is the immune system of the body that reacts to the vaccine, to give you the flu-like symptoms.

“The vaccine cannot give you Covid-19.

“It is just the antibodies forming because they recognise the properties that Covid-19 will pose and it mounts its response.”

The vaccine would not replace the need for non-pharmaceutical interventions such as mask-wearing, physical-distancing and sanitising, until more is known on asymptomatic transmission and herd immunity starts within society.

Herd immunity is when a large proportion of a population becomes immune to a specific disease.

The first phase of the roll-out would include health-care workers (HCW), with an estimated target of 105 000, the second will include essential workers, persons older than 60, and persons older than 18 with comorbidities with a target of two million, and the third will include persons older than 18 years with a target of three million people.

“The Western Cape Government has not been informed as to when we will get the vaccines and how many we will get, which is of course a concern,” said Premier Alan Winde.

The province hopes to begin vaccination, however, by the first week of February.

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said no one would be mandated to take the vaccine.

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