South Africa’s vaccination roll-out gets under way as Ramaphosa and healthcare workers get their jabs
On Wednesday afternoon, President Cyril Ramaphosa and health minister Zweli Mkhize, alongside healthcare workers at Khayelitsha District Hospital, were among the first group to receive the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.
Less than 24 hours after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrived in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa, health minister Zweli Mkhize, his deputy Joe Phaahla and healthcare workers were among the first group of people to receive the vaccine at Khayelitsha District Hospital in the Western Cape.
The 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine landed at OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday night and were moved to a secure facility in Gauteng before being distributed overnight to vaccine centres in all provinces, Ramaphosa said in a statement.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been shown in extensive trials to be safe and efficacious and will protect our healthcare workers from illness and death from Covid-19,” said the president.
“To demonstrate our confidence in this vaccine and help allay any fears that people may have, the minister of health and I will join the first healthcare workers to receive the vaccine in Khayelitsha.”
South Africa has secured nine million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
According to a statement from Mkhize, “an additional 500,000 doses are expected to arrive over the next four weeks, supplemented by another 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that is expected to arrive at the end of March”.
Prof Glenda Gray, principal investigator during the Johnson & Johnson trial, said their vaccine had an 85% efficacy in preventing severe Covid-19, hospitalisation and death, and had been tested in conditions where 501.V2 was the dominant variant.
South Africa had to reassess its vaccine plans due to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine having only 22% efficacy against the 501Y.V2 mutation of the coronavirus. A million doses of this vaccine had already been procured from the Serum Institute, but further tests showed that the antibody produced by the vaccine was not active against 501Y.V2.
By Wednesday South Africa had recorded 1,494,119 cases of coronavirus, with about 48,000 Covid-19-related deaths.
On receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Ramaphosa said: “We are pleased that we are able to begin vaccination by mid-February, as we had announced. This is despite the fact that the AstraZeneca vaccine that we had procured for this purpose showed little efficacy against the 501Y.V2 variant that is currently dominant in South Africa.”
In a statement regarding the fate of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Mkhize said that the doses purchased “have been offered to the African Union platform, of which we are a part, and the AU will distribute to those countries who have already expressed interest in acquiring the stock”. DM
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