Ramaphosa was speaking at an Eastern Cape provincial government executive committee lekgotla on Tuesday.
On Sunday, a new study by researchers at Wits and Oxford universities led to the Department of Health putting its plans to use AstraZeneca temporarily on hold after showing the vaccine could be less effective against the variant first identified in South Africa in those with mild forms of the disease.
“You will be aware of the results of a study that were released yesterday into the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine we procured from the Serum Institute of India against the new strain of the disease,” said Ramaphosa.
“As the minister of health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has indicated, this will affect the design and phasing of our vaccination rollout. In the light of these new developments, he has tasked our scientists to develop proposals on how we can effectively vaccinate our population in the shortest possible time.
“We remain firmly committed to rolling out a rapid and comprehensive vaccination programme that will provide immunity to at least 40 million of our citizens,” he told the lekgotla.
“This is an immensely difficult time for our country as we grapple with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic fallout.”
Ramaphosa said the immediate and most pressing priority of all spheres of government – whether it be local, provincial or national – was to save lives.
He welcomed the participation of the Eastern Cape in the planning of the vaccination programme and the work “you have undertaken to get all systems, structures and facilities ready”.
“Our success will ultimately rest on the co-operation and collaboration of all spheres of government and all public entities. Covid-19 has had a dramatic impact on lives and livelihoods in the Eastern Cape,” said Ramaphosa.
He congratulated the provincial leadership for its sterling efforts since the onset of the pandemic.