Vaccination hubs conduct dry runs as they wait for Johnson & Johnson vaccine to land

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The first batch of 80 000 vaccines will be distributed to 17 sites across nine provinces.
The first batch of 80 000 vaccines will be distributed to 17 sites across nine provinces.
PHOTO: Michael Ciaglo, Getty Images via AFP
  • Dry runs are being carried out to prepare for the arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • There are plans to run 10-hour vaccine centres for healthcare workers.
  • The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected to arrive in the country on Tuesday.

Vaccination dry runs are being conducted at centres across the country as healthcare workers wait for the Johnson & Johnson doses that are expected to land from Belgium on Tuesday.

Speaking on News24 Frontline, Professor Glenda Gray, Johnson & Johnson co-principal investigator and president of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), said: "Everyone is doing dry runs as we speak. The research sites are meeting with the vaccinators and doing dry ones. We are going to do a wet one tomorrow just so we can know the speed at which we can pull out vaccines. We want to hit the ground running as soon as the vaccines are here."

Nearly 80 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are expected to land. This comes after the national health department had to, at the last minute, change their healthcare worker vaccination plans, following findings that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was not highly effective against the 501Y.V2 variant that was first discovered in South Africa.

Gray said the dry runs were to ensure that the vaccine rollout was seamless. She said the department might make an announcement on Tuesday on the commencement of the vaccination process.

'We want it to be seamless'

As part of the plans, vaccination centres will run 10 hours a day, seven days a week, until 500 000 healthcare workers have been inoculated.

She said: 

We want to hit the ground running the moment the vaccines arrive. At the vaccination centres, the pharmacists, vaccinators and doctors are ready to speed up the process to deliver vaccines to healthcare workers. We are doing all these processes now because we want it to be seamless. We will do this until we have a registration of a vaccine in South Africa and we can hand over this programme to the Department of Health to do the operational rollout.

Gray, who played an integral role in the country's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, said her role was accidental because she had planned to "sit out" the pandemic.

"I wanted to sit this out. When it started, I thought I was going to just write my academic papers. I had just come out of the HIV epidemic and that was torrid. I wanted to breeze through this and become a scholar."

But she ended up playing a significant role and is delivering the first vaccines, which are due to be administered to healthcare workers this week.


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