Covid-19: First batch of vaccines 'a major milestone' says Ramaphosa after inspecting consignment

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The first batch of 1 million vaccines arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday.
The first batch of 1 million vaccines arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday.
  • South Africa's first batch of Covid-19 vaccines landed at OR Tambo on Monday from the Serum Institute of India.
  • One million doses have arrived and more are expected later in the month.
  • The first batch will be given to SA's frontline workers.

A handful of South Africans, young and old, watched on in excitement and hope as the first one million doses of Covid-19 vaccines landed at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday.

Thembisa father Dexter Moloi brought his two children to view the historical event. 

“It’s so important because we need to have this vaccine for the healthcare workers and for the general public and the rest of the public. If at least half of the population [get it] maybe we can [curb] this virus,” said Moloi. 

WATCH | Covid-19: First batch of vaccines arrive in SA

Moloi said that it was important for his children to see the vaccine landing as Covid-19 had also affected them. 

“It is very hard at home, when everyone coughs the children say Corona [sic] so I think this vaccine is very important to us and will help us get back to normal,” said Moloi. 

The rain came lashing down as President Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy-President David Mabuza, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, and other dignitaries inspected the doses that arrived via an Emirates plane from the Serum Institute of India.

“Today marks a major milestone in our fight against the #coronavirus pandemic as we receive our first consignment of the vaccine. This batch will benefit our healthcare workers who have been at the forefront of keeping us all safe,” said the President in a tweet. 

This first batch of Covishield vaccines will go to health workers — but even with the additional 500 000 vaccines that South Africa is getting later this month, the shots wouldn't cover all of the 1.25 million health workers the government says the country has (they will all need two shots, so the 1.5 million doses will at best cover 750 000 workers), Bhekisisa reported.

For Limpopo resident David Ndlovu, who was also at the airport to witness the plane land, the first batch was a symbol of hope regardless of how many people it would reach.

“As a country, we are grateful because there have been a lot of people who have died because of the virus. We really appreciate the government's effort in securing the vaccine for us,” said Ndlovu.

Once inspected by the President and the dignitaries, the consignment left OR Tambo under heavy guard in unmarked trucks, that were escorted by police and private security.

After some time on the tarmac, Ramaphosa and his delegation left the airport without addressing the media, as most media houses watched on from a viewing deck inside the airport.

Ramaphosa is, however, expected to address the nation on Monday evening.

The vaccine doses will first be stored and tested and then rolled out through Biovac, and other distributors, to recipients in the first phase of the country's immunisation programme.

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