After being inoculated with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he has faith that SA’s vaccination roll-out will proceed smoothly
THE LONG-awaited start of the country’s vaccination programme has been welcomed as the beginning of a lengthy journey to getting as many South Africans as possible inoculated against the coronavirus.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize were among the first people to be vaccinated on Wednesday, marking the start of the country’s vaccination drive. This is the first phase and it is targeted at health care workers.
The first people to be vaccinated included a nurse, a cleaner, a doctor and an administration staff member at the Khayelitsha District Hospital in Cape Town. All were vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
A total of 80,000 doses of the vaccine arrived on Tuesday night at OR Tambo Airport and were immediately distributed to over 30 vaccination centres across the country’s nine provinces.
The doses have already been approved for use in the country by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority.
The government was forced to quickly change its vaccination programme, which was meant to start last week in some parts of the country, because of the AstraZeneca vaccine’s efficacy results. The vaccine is less effective against mild to moderate effects of the 501Y.V2 coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa in November.
A million doses had already been delivered by the Serum Institute of Indian on February 1. Now those doses have been offered to the AU, Mkhzie confirmed.
Mkhize also confirmed that vaccinators had already been trained to administer the vaccine.
“Some 164 vaccinators will vaccinate approximately 48 clients a day – that is about six to seven clients an hour. As more doses arrive the service will be ramped up accordingly to ensure that we maintain a good rate of daily vaccines,“ the minister said in Parliament on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, following his vaccination jab, Ramaphosa said the start of the country’s vaccination programme signified a milestone. He said he has faith that the vaccination roll-out will be without issues.
“This day represents a huge milestone. I was pleased that there were five people vaccinated before me. It was a joy to see that nothing happened to them. Being vaccinated is a straightforward process. I want to invite all South Africans to take this up,“ Ramaphosa said.
“I think it is going to be flawless and done effectively. We will be able to vaccinate up to 40 million South Africans. This is a new era that means we restore the health of our nation.”
Mkhize said that efforts were under way to procure more vaccines. He reiterated his comments that so far, through ongoing negotiations, the country had enough vaccines to inoculate 40 million people.
Another 500,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are expected to arrive in four weeks and about 500,000 Pfizer vaccine doses were also expected next month.
Dr Aslam Dasoo of the Progressive Health Forum said the government’s ability to quickly turnaround the failure of the AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out symbolised promise.
“This allows us to begin our vaccine programme, maybe not on the scale that we wanted to, but we start on time. This has been hugely advantageous. So now you have an effective vaccine, and it is a one-shot vaccine,” Dasoo said.
He said this was the start of a long journey ahead for the country as more doses were needed to ensure that inoculations speed up.
– Political Bureau