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SA ramp up Covid-19 vaccine rollout

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Government is now moving at a faster pace with its nationwide vaccination programme, which is a priority in the fight to curb the spread of Covid-19.

President Cyril Ramaphosa made this announcement during his nation address on the developments in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic on Tuesday night.

“The pace of vaccinations has steadily picked up, and we are now vaccinating around 80,000 people a day at over 570 sites in the public and private sector.

“This number will grow rapidly in the weeks to come, as we aim to protect as many vulnerable people as possible,” he said adding that the problems with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have now been resolved.

The President further said that because of those problems, two million doses that had already been produced are unusable.

He said the Aspen plant in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape is now able to go ahead and produce new doses.

President Ramaphosa told the nation that government is aware that the country’s vaccination programme has experienced several delays.

“Our first setback was that after the arrival of our first batch of vaccines, our scientists discovered that the AstraZeneca vaccine that we had procured from the Serum Institute of India did not provide sufficient protection against the variant that is predominant in South Africa.

“We have also been adversely affected by shortages in the global supply of vaccines, which has hampered vaccination programmes across Africa and in many other low- and middle-income countries.

“After the AstraZeneca setback, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine appeared to be the best option for our country as it protects against the variant, because it requires only a single dose and is easier to store and transport,” he said.

However, the President said the supply of Johnson & Johnson vaccines was held up by an investigation into contamination of ingredients at a supplier factory in Baltimore in the United States.

“Until now, our mass vaccination programme has therefore had to rely on the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses. Nevertheless, 480,000 health workers have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to date as part of phase one of the programme.

As part of phase two, he said a further 1.5 million health workers and people over the age of 60 have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

This brings the total number of people who have received a vaccine dose to almost two million. According to the President, the company has committed to significantly ramp up production and begin supplying the country within the next few days.

“We have to date received nearly 2.4 million Pfizer vaccine doses. By the end of June, we expect to have received 3.1 million Pfizer doses.

“We have received an indication from Johnson & Johnson that it expects to deliver around 2 million vaccines to South Africa by the end of the month.

“The initial doses we receive from Johnson & Johnson will be used to vaccinate educators in our schools and thereafter security personnel on the frontline.

“Now that the delays in the supply of vaccines is largely resolved, our immediate task is to complete the vaccination of all those over 60 years of age without delay.
It is estimated that we have the capacity at present to vaccinate at least 150,000 people a day, and we are planning to increase that to 250,000 a day as soon as possible,” he said.

The President who also urged South Africans over the age of 60 to register – whether online, by SMS, by phone or in person – and get vaccinated without delay, also announced that in the last seven days, only 64 health care workers have been infected.