A series of missteps throughout the rollout so far has shown the danger of not having a concrete strategy in place to vaccinate the country.

South Africa’s approach to its COVID-19 vaccine programme has been characterised by a large number of missteps.

In aggregate it has left the country behind many others on the continent, and essentially left millions unvaccinated as a savage third wave descends on the country.

This has happened despite an established vaccine procurement and distribution network, access to the first large batch of vaccines on the continent, and a large number of pandemic and vaccine experts.

As the country battles a severe third wave crisis, at great cost to health, economy and society, the rollout of a vaccine programme remains the only sustainable means to protect the population against COVID-19 severe disease and death and return to some level of acceptable economic activity.

Strategically, therefore, policy needs to be hyper-focused on the delivery of a responsive vaccine programme to protect especially high risk groups against severe disease and death.

In this article, we outline the history of the vaccine strategy and its pitfalls. We also suggest a way forward.

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