Mkhize promises more vaccine doses as roll-out begins
Johannesburg - Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says a list of agreements for the procurement of more vaccine doses are close to being concluded with pharmaceutical companies.
This comes as the country has already begun inoculating health-care workers.
The country began its vaccination campaign on Wednesday following the arrival of 80 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Tuesday night.
The doses were distributed to over 30 vaccination centres for all nine provinces.
Some of the first provinces which began vaccinating health-care workers were Gauteng, Eastern Cape and the Western Cape.
The country’s first phase of the vaccination programme will focus on health-care workers.
Over 300 000 health-care professionals have registered on the health department's EVDS system – which tracks the vaccinations.
Mkhize and President Cyril Ramaphosa received vaccine jabs at the Khayelitsha District Hospital in Cape Town. This was a political move that was meant to alleviate fears around the vaccines.
Video: African News Agency (ANA)
Ramaphosa hailed the moment as promising for restoring the country’s health. He said this was a significant milestone for the country.
“This day represents a huge milestone. I was pleased that there were five people vaccinated before me. It was a joy to see that nothing happened to them. Being vaccinated is a straightforward process.
I want to invite all South Africans to take this up, Ramaphosa said.
“I think it is going to be flawless and done effectively. We will be able to vaccinate up to 40 million South Africans. This is a new era that means we restore the health of our nation.”
The government was forced to quickly change its vaccination programme, which was meant to start last week in some parts of the country, because of the AstraZeneca vaccine’s efficiency results. The vaccine is less effective against mild to moderate effects of the 501Y.V2 coronavirus strain first identified in South Africa in November.
Video: Kelly-Jane Turner
A million doses had already been delivered by the Serum Institute of Indian on February 1. Now those doses have been offered to the AU, Mkhize confirmed.
The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been proven to be 57% effective against the 501Y.V2 strain and can prevent death and hospitalisation.
Mkhize said that efforts were under way to procure more vaccines. He reiterated his comments that so far, through ongoing negotiations, the country had enough vaccines to inoculate 40 million people.
Another 500 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were expected to arrive in four weeks and thereafter about 500 000 Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine doses were also expected next month.
The minister said 7 million doses were expected from Pfizer by June. The company is expected to provide the country with a total of 20 million vaccine doses.
Other notable commitments have been from the World Health Organization’s Covax scheme which has confirmed a total of 12 million doses for the country. The AU has assured South Africa would get doses from the Africa procurement programme.
Dr Aslam Dasoo, from the Progressive Health Forum, said the government’s ability to quickly turnaround the failure of the AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out symbolised promise.
“This allows us to begin our vaccine programme, maybe not on the scale that we wanted to but we start on time. This has been hugely advantageous. So now you have an effective vaccine on top of it is a one-shot vaccine,” Dasoo said.