South Africa to give first COVID-19 vaccine doses to president, health workers

South Africa to give first COVID-19 vaccine doses to president, health workers
# 17 February 2021 14:27 (UTC +04:00)

South Africa will administer its first COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, with President Cyril Ramaphosa to get the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) shot alongside health workers, APA reports citing Reuters.

The first shot will be given at Khayelitsha District Hospital in Cape Town this afternoon, the government said.

Ramaphosa said in a statement that 80,000 J&J doses were being prepared for distribution across the country and that he would be inoculated to demonstrate his government’s confidence in the vaccine.

The J&J vaccine is being rolled out initially as a research study to further evaluate it in the field, with up to 500,000 health workers set to be immunised.

Ramaphosa said most vaccination centres would be ready to begin the country’s immunisation programme on Wednesday.

“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,” he said.

South Africa switched to the one-shot J&J vaccine after pausing the rollout of AstraZeneca’s two-dose vaccine this month.

Preliminary trial data showed the AstraZeneca shot developed in partnership with the University of Oxford offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from the country’s dominant coronavirus variant.

The decision to suspend the AstraZeneca rollout has added to scepticism among some South Africans about COVID-19 vaccines.

The government says it could sell or swap its AstraZeneca doses.

South Africa has recorded about 1.5 million coronavirus infections and over 48,000 deaths, the most on the African continent. The government had initially planned to vaccinate 40 million people, or two-thirds of the population, to achieve some level of herd immunity, but it is not clear whether that target still stands.