It’s telling that SA is yet to administer vaccine despite being one of the worst affected

By Opinion Time of article published Feb 9, 2021

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The South Africa-Oxford University AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine programme from the Serum Institute of India seems to be a shambles.

The roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which had been scheduled to begin in South Africa this month, is on hold, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Sunday.

Mkhize said the roll-out would be stopped until a committee of scientists had decided the way forward.

The first shipment of the vaccine arrived to much fanfare and political breast-beating at OR Tambo International Airport last week, carrying with it the hope that, finally, the grim shadow of death that has been hanging ever so ominously over a vulnerable population would begin to lift.

Although the arrival of the million doses of the vaccines represented a significant milestone in dealing effectively with a virus that has killed more than 46 000 South Africans, we said it in no way called for a celebration because the road ahead was going to be long and hard and fraught with many pitfalls.

The government had intended to roll the AstraZeneca shots out to health-care workers soon. Instead, it will offer vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in the coming weeks while experts consider how AstraZeneca, which reportedly has an April expiry date, can be used.

Medical experts and scientists say results from the trials show the AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against mild and moderate forms of the coronavirus variant first identified in the country.

They say it is “disappointing” and a reality check. We are where we are partly because of the government’s reactive and lackadaisical approach in dealing with the sourcing of vaccines right from the beginning.

It is telling that, of the top 15 countries worst affected by the pandemic, South Africa has the ignominy of being the only one still to administer a single jab – months after vaccines became available.

While we await the delivery of more of the life-saving vaccines, it is up to all of us to adhere to the tried-and-tested non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as the wearing of masks.

The Star

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