No one in South Africa will be forced to take the Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the government’s effort to secure a vaccine will be for the common good and to ensure the spread of Covid-19 is curbed – but no one will be forced to take the jab.
On Thursday, Mkhize briefed Parliament’s health committee on the country’s Covid-19 vaccine plan.
“The vaccine will be voluntary. We will try and urge as many people to take the vaccine. It is not mandatory, but we need for the community to understand that it is for their benefit and that is why they need to participate at that level. So when there are issues which relate to moral, ethical or religious and those kinds of issues, we can deal with those at the time when they arise,” he said.
Mkhize said the government will be the sole purchaser of the vaccines.
Mkhize also announced that South Africa will receive one million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine from the Serum Institute of India this month.
The institute is the manufacturer of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine.
The country will be receiving the first one million doses from India in January and then another 500 000.
First to receive the vaccine will be the country’s 1.25 million frontline health workers in both public and private facilities.
Mkhize said the allocation of vaccines to the various priority groups will be guided by the ministerial advisory committee (MAC) on vaccines.
“The vaccination system should be based on pre-vaccination registration and appointment system for vaccination. All vaccinated persons should be on a national register and will be provided a vaccination card. A national rollout committee will oversee the rollout, including both the public and private sectors,” he said.
On whether pregnant women and children should be vaccinated, Mkhize said the safety and efficacy of vaccines in children and pregnant women are currently not known.
“Vaccination is currently not recommended [for pregnant women and children]. Guidance will be updated as new evidence becomes available,” he said.
The same rule applies to people who are known to have had Covid-19.
“This includes persons who tested positive during their illness, as well as patients with positive antibody tests.
“Best practice currently remains unclear. Guidance is awaited from the World Health Organisation and the vaccine MAC,” he said.