Updated: March 1, 2021
The South African president Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday that his country had received the first 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the coronavirus, and vaccination will begin immediately.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that the first batch of 80 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being prepared for distribution across South Africa with immediate effect,” Ramaphosa wrote in a statement.
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He said the first batch of the vaccine has already been approved by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) under the Sisonke protocol, and these vaccines will be rapidly dispatched to all provinces.
“It is expected that most vaccination centers will be ready from today, February 17, 2021, to begin the vaccination program,” the president said.
He added: “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.
“I would like to congratulate the Vaccine Inter-Ministerial Committee, the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Vaccines, Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize and his team, and the Medical Research Council for responding so rapidly and effectively to this challenge.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been shown in extensive trials to be safe and efficacious and will protect our health care workers from illness and death from COVID-19.
“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 health care workers to receive the vaccine in Khayelitsha.
“We have called on leaders in various sectors and parts of the country to lead by example and get inoculated publicly. We will therefore witness some Premiers, MECs and leaders from civil society, religious formations and traditional leadership being vaccinated in all provinces.
“Through this vaccination programme, government aims to achieve population immunity to save lives and protect livelihoods.
“We have chosen vaccination and we call on all South Africans to choose vaccination and protect one another.”