The business sector has welcomed the decision to allow another cohort of the population to be vaccinated for Covid-19.
On Friday, Acting Minister of Health Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced that the government had agreed to start vaccinating people in the 35 to 49 age group from August 1.
Kubayi-Ngubane also said the National Treasury had agreed to release funds to ramp up weekend vaccinations in the public sector.
She said although Gauteng continued to be the epicentre of the third wave of Covid-19, there was now a concern that infections would start to increase in other provinces
“This means that there is a lot of work that the team working on the vaccination programme still needs to do,” Kubayi-Ngubane said. “We have to make sure that the vaccines reach all South Africans as quickly as possible.”
Business for South Africa (B4SA) said the only way to fight the third wave, save lives, restart the economy, and lift the lockdown restrictions was to vaccinate the nation as quickly as possible.
“Vaccinating everyone aged over 35 protects those most at risk from serious illness, hospitalisation and death due to their age, and ensures the protection of the working-age population, which helps to manage the economic impact of the pandemic,” Martin Kingston, the chairperson of B4SA’s steering committee, said.
Kingston said business was working with the government to cut red tape, secure additional vaccines, and bring more vaccination sites on stream in the coming weeks.
“We now need to quickly secure more vaccine supply, so we have enough to meet demand,” Kingston said. “With enough vaccine supply and all sites vaccinating seven days a week, we can reach our target of administering 300 000 jabs a day.”
Last week, the South African Health Products Authority approved with conditions the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine manufactured by Sinovac Life Science for use in South Africa.
The approval came at a time when the demand for vaccines had increased.
Kubayi-Ngubane said CoronaVac would boost the vaccine supply for the country’s vaccination roll-out programme, and would be in addition to the vaccines the country had already received from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
Kubayi-Ngubane said the government was encouraged that the number of vaccinations per day had surpassed 191 000. She said they were expecting to surpass 250 000 vaccinations a day by this week.
More than 4 million people have been vaccinated.
Kingston said about 1 400 places of work had expressed interest in becoming vaccination sites. Of these, 90 had obtained permits, 80 were prioritised sites with an employee base of more than 4 000, and the balance were in the process of applying for and receiving their permits.
Kingston said it was vital to continue taking preventative measures to slow down the infection rate.