PHOTO: REUTERS

South Africa‘s health minister Zweli Mkhize on Thursday announced plans to vaccinate 40 million people against COVID-19 by February this year in order to achieve herd immunity in the country.

South Africa is planning to get the vaccine from AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna but has yet to sign a deal with any of them.

It is participating in the COVAX initiative co-led by the World Health Organization, but that covers just 10% of its populace.

More than one million cases have been reported in Africa’s most industrialized nation.

This week, deaths in South Africa surpassed 30,000, and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said both private and public hospitals were struggling to manage to a growing influx of patients.

“Deaths and admissions are already higher than what we have ever experienced before,” he said in a virtual presentation to parliament.

Priority would go to 1.25 million health workers, then a second phase would target other essential workers, people over 60 and people with co-morbidities, 8 million in total, then the rest would be vaccinated in a third phase, he said.