A bit late to the party, South Africa kickstarted its nationwide inoculation programme following the arrival of 80 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine.
Johnson & Johnson vaccines arrive in South Africa – What’s next?
The flight carrying the jabs landed at OR Tambo International Airport in the late hours of Tuesday evening, an affair that was not as highly publicised as the AstraZeneca arrival.
Unlike the latter, the J&J vaccine has already gone through the necessary checks and balances. There will be no two-week delay in the rollout.
According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, the jabs have already been transported to vaccine centres in all nine provinces and the inoculation drive will kick off as early as Wednesday, in some areas.
“As this batch has already been approved by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority under the Sisonke protocol, these vaccines will be rapidly dispatched to all provinces. It is expected that most vaccination centres will be ready from today to begin the vaccination programme,” the president wrote in a statement.
Govt adopts cautious, renewed approach to vaccine drive
This renewed approach is less ambitious than the previous one. The objective, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said, is to complete Phase 1 of the vaccine drive. However, cautionary steps must be taken to ensure that the J&J dose is efficient against the 501Y.V2 variant.
The release of the vaccine in small batches will allow the health department, through the Sisonke protocol, to monitor vaccinated candidates after they’ve taken the jab.
Part of the first group of candidates is political and traditional leaders. This, the president said, was one way of restoring confidence in the vaccine drive.
“We have called on leaders in various sectors and parts of the country to lead by example and get inoculated publicly. We will therefore witness some Premiers, MECs and leaders from civil society, religious formations and traditional leadership being vaccinated in all provinces,” the president said.
‘SA has enough vaccines to achieve herd immunity’ – Dr Zweli Mkhize
More doses of te J&J vaccine are expected to arrive in tranches. According to Mkhize, South Africa has already acquired the required amount of doses to achieve herd immunity.
“Critically, an additional 500,000 doses are expected to arrive over the next four weeks, supplemented by another 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that is expected to be received at the end of March 2021.
“I can also say that we have actually secured enough doses to vaccinate all the people who will need to be vaccinated in South Africa,” he said.