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Health workers “have lost trust in the government” ahead of J&J vaccine arrival


80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are expected to arrive in South Africa this week

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ABOUT 17 vaccination centres will be used to dispense the 80,000 Johnson & Johnson (J&J) shots to health care workers in South Africa as the country prepares for its vaccination programme to begin this week.

The J&J vaccine received the green light for a phase 3b trial in health care workers from South Africa’s drugs regulator Sahpra on Monday, allowing the government to begin dispensing shots.

J&J co-principal investigator Professor Linda-Gail Bekker said the roll-out would start in major centres before moving into more rural areas.

“We are not changing the plan, the researchers are working very closely with the existing vaccine centres. We will be starting in the major centres but over the next few days, we will be moving out into more rural areas and trying to reach as many health care workers as possible,” said Bekker.

“We are using existing infrastructure, clinical research sites were already there, vaccine centres were set up. In the first roll-out phase, we will be using only 17 vaccine centres around the country. In every single province there’s at least one and in most provinces there are two.”

According to Lerato Mthunzi, the president of the Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU), there is a lack of enthusiasm among health care workers ahead of the arrival of the J&J vaccines.

“The health care workers have lost trust in the government. The AstraZeneca is just but one of the incidents that show that our government does not plan appropriately for whatever role that they have and the decisions that they make are hasty; and even just this convenient switch to Johnson and Johnson after discovering the AstraZeneca will be expiring in April is just but too convenient,” Mthunzi said during an interview on SAfm.

President Cyril Ramaphosa told lawmakers during the State of the Nation Address (Sona) last week that the batch of 80,000 doses was expected to arrive this week after the government suspended its planned roll-out of AstraZeneca’s vaccine – after preliminary findings from a small clinical trial found it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate Covid-19 caused by the new variant, 501Y.V2, which now dominates transmission in South Africa.