JOHANNESBURG - The Health Department is insisting it's doing everything possible to secure a COVID-19 vaccine for South Africa but it looks like it will be months before the country begins widespread inoculations.
Close to 28,000 people have died of the virus in South Africa and that number continues to grow at an alarming rate.
The South African Medical Research Councils Safura Abdool Karim explained, "there are several parts to procuring a vaccine. I think the fact that we're using a mechanism like Covax, which is a consortium of countries that have come together, deciding to pool their resources to find a vaccine makes things all the more complicated."
On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa, said South Africa would probably only see the vaccine in the second quarter of 2021.
When asked why it is taking so long the Department of Health's deputy director-general said Covax seemed to be the best option at the time.
Dr Anban Pillay said, "we participated in the Covax initiative, that initiative allocates vaccines as they become available from the manufacturers of the vaccine."
"What has happened is there are other countries that have already started rolling out the vaccine. Many of these countries didn't participate in the Covax facility but rather got into bilateral agreements with a particular vaccine manufacturer. In this case, the Pfizer vaccine is the one they put their money on, as such, and it came through for them and that's why they've been able to roll out their vaccines first."
"Covax, on the other hand, took the approach of spreading the risk amongst a number of vaccine producers. At the time that these <COVID-19 vaccine> trials started, there was no sense of which vaccine was going to succeed and which was going to fail so Covax engaged with all the vaccine producers."
"Based on that, Covax will receive an allocation and have indicated to us to expect allocation in due <course>. Their soft allocation to us appears to be in the earlier parts -- so I'm hoping sometime in April we will be able to get the Covax supply."
Dr Pillay said South Africa is also pursuing bilateral agreements with manufacturers for vaccine procurement.
*Watch the full interview with Dr Anban Pillay and eNCA anchor Shahan Ramkissoon above.