President Cyril Ramaphosa and health minister Zweli Mkhize were among the first citizens to get inoculated with the newly acquired Johnson & Johnson vaccine which arrived in South Africa on Tuesday night.
“At first, I was a bit terrified of this long needle that was going to be imbedded into my arm, but it happened so quickly, so easily, it was just a prick on my flesh, and I really did not feel much pain,” he said.
“To demonstrate our confidence in this vaccine and help allay any fears that people may have, the Ramaphosa and Health Minister Mkhize took were vaccinated on Wednesday 17th February.
The president announced that the first batch of 80,000 doses of the vaccine are being prepared for distribution across SA with immediate effect.
“As this batch has already been approved by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) under the Sisonke protocol, these vaccines will be rapidly dispatched to all provinces,” he said, adding that most vaccination centres would be ready from Wednesday to begin the vaccination programme.
The first batch of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on February 16 2021. The batch consisted of 80,000 units of the vaccine. The vaccines were moved to a secure facility in Gauteng, before being distributed to vaccine facilities in all provinces.
“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.”
Ramaphosa congratulated the vaccine interministerial committee, the ministerial advisory committee on vaccines, Mkhize and his team, as well as the Medical Research Council for responding rapidly and effectively.
“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.
He called on leaders including premiers, MECs and religious and traditional leaders in various sectors and parts of the country to lead by example and get inoculated publicly.
“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,” said Ramaphosa.
Meanwhile, health minister Zweli Mkhize has confirmed that the one million Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines which arrived in SA two weeks ago will be offered to other African countries.
The vaccines, which were procured from the Serum Institute of India and arrived in SA on February 1 to much fanfare, were found to have limited efficacy against mild and moderate disease caused by the Covid-19 variant that is dominant in SA.