Nearly a year after the devastating Covid-19 pandemic reached local shores, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize will join healthcare workers in Khayelitsha for the moment the country has been waiting for – the first vaccinations are set to begin today.
Ramaphosa, Mkhize, and Deputy Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla will also be vaccinated.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that the first batch of 80 000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine is being prepared for distribution across South Africa with immediate effect. As this batch has already been approved by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority under the Sisonke protocol, these vaccines will be rapidly dispatched to all provinces,” Ramaphosa said this morning.
Ramaphosa said that it was expected that most of the 17 vaccination centres would be ready from today to begin the roll-out of the vaccination programme.
The J&J doses arrived late last night at OR Tambo International Airport and were distributed to a Gauteng facility before being distributed overnight to the various provincial vaccine centres in all provinces.
“We are pleased that we are able to begin vaccination by mid-February, as we had announced, This 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 SA,” Ramaphosa continued.
The vaccine itself has been shown through clinical trials to be safe, and holds a 57% efficacy against the variant while also proving to offer 85% protection against severe disease.
On Tuesday during the state of the nation debate in Parliament, Mkhize said that the 1 million doses of Astrazeneca vaccine that had arrived at the beginning of the month had been offered to the African Union platform to be distributed to countries that had expressed interest in it.
“Therefore please be assured that there will be no wasteful and fruitless expenditure. In regard to the further role of Astrazeneca and all vaccines for that matter, we continue to be guided by the ministerial advisory committee and experts, and remain committed to an approach that is led by science and is rational in its implementation,” Mkhize continued.
This is a developing story, and will be updated to reflect the proceedings of the first vaccinations.