South Africa received its first delivery of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at OR Tambo International Airport in Gauteng on Tuesday night [February 16], marking the start of the country’s vaccine rollout.

The vaccine has been approved by the South African Health Products Authority. In studies, it showed a 57% efficacy in South Africa in preventing contraction and 85% efficacy in preventing severe disease and death due to COVID-19.

The first shipment contained 80 000 single-dose vaccines, which will first be distributed among healthcare workers in the country in phase 1. An additional 500 000 doses are expected to arrive over the next four weeks.

According to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, these will form part of the 9-million doses government has secured and will be supplemented by another 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that is expected to be received at the end of March 2021.

The consignment will be moved to a secure facility in Gauteng before being distributed overnight to the various vaccine centres in all provinces.

There will initially be 17 vaccine sites across the country, including the  Chris Hani Baragwanath, Tygerberg and Prince Mshiyeni Memorial hospitals. These will expand as time goes.

The Western Cape Government said on February 10 that in preparation for the vaccine, they have identified almost 150 000 healthcare workers in the public and private sector to receive the vaccine. They have also identified 378 public sector facilities and 41 private facilities where vaccination will take place.

This kickstarts the second official start to the vaccine roll-out in the country, following the AstraZeneca vaccine debacle.

One million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the country on February 1 but health officials placed its distribution on hold after questions were raised about its efficacy.

Mkhize said the Astra Zeneca doses government purchased have been offered to the AU platform, of which we are part, and the AU will distribute to those countries who have already expressed interest in acquiring the stock.

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Picture: Twitter / South African Government

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