KZN Covid-19 vaccine roll-out a ’glimmer of hope’ that life will soon return to normal
Durban - South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccination programme which was rolled out in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday to healthcare workers offered a glimmer of hope that the country would be able to defeat the virus that had so far infected nearly 1.5 million South Africans and killed 48 478 - premier Sihle Zikalala said.
Speaking after overseeing the first doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being administered to healthcare workers at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in uMlazi on Thursday, Zikalala said the rollout of the vaccine programme will not only lead to many lives being saved but will speed up the country’s ultimate return to normalcy.
“Today, the long wait is over and the sun is rising to usher in a season of hope,” he said.
Zikalala said that after concerned were raised about the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca (CoviShield) vaccine against the new variant of Covid-19 that is dominant in South Africa a decision was then taken to use a vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, which had undergone trials and showed excellent protection as a single-dose vaccine against severe Covid-19, including in South Africa.
Zikalala said there were no safety concerns established from the trials of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which in addition to its efficacy against the virus was extremely easy to roll-out.
He pointed out that it had a shelf life of up to 2 years at -20°C, it can be stored at normal fridge temperature for 3 months and unlike some other vaccines, it is a single-shot vaccine.
Zikalala said it was important to vaccinate healthcare workers first as they were 3-4 times more likely than the general population to develop Covid-19.
“To date, 15400 KwaZulu-Natal health workers have developed Covid-19, with 323 of these valued colleagues sadly passing on,” he said.
The Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital, and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital are the two hospitals in the province that have been chosen to roll out the vaccine as they have the largest number of employees in the province, as well as the highest number of employees affected by Covid-19, Zikalala said.
Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital will receive 5 760 doses, while Prince Mshiyeni Hospital will be getting 5 040 doses.
“We are aware that this vaccine is eagerly awaited in all parts of the province. In fact, if it were up to us, we would be administering it to all our health and allied workers, support staff, and to the general public no later than from today onwards. But, unfortunately, we are at the mercy of manufacturers, market forces, as well as a number of other variables that determine when we can receive these vaccines, as well as what volumes we receive,” Zikalala said.
The premier pleaded with those who were sceptical about the vaccine to have “faith” in the vaccine, point to the fact that both president Cyril Ramaphosa and and health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize both received the vaccine on Wednesday.
“Our own Health MEC, Ms Nomagugu Simelane, has also been registered to take the vaccine, due to her constant exposure to risky environments that she frequents as part of her job. So, we are calling on all the people of this province to remain upbeat and positive about the vaccine, as we herald this new beginning,” he said.