Addressing the nation on the developments in the country’s response to the pandemic, the President said the health workers received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires a single dose.
Two weeks ago, the country started the second phase of the vaccination programme, targeting the balance of health workers, who were not vaccinated during the first phase, and all those in the country who are over 60 years of age.
This followed the first phase of the programme, in which nearly 480,000 health workers were vaccinated.
“Since the evidence shows that older people are at a far greater risk of severe COVID-19 illness and death, we have prioritised the elderly for this second phase.
“Over the last two weeks, over 480 000 people received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, as part of the public vaccination campaign,” the President said on Sunday.
Since the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses to provide maximum immunity, people will need to have a second dose at least 42 days after their first dose.
“In total, over 960 000 people in South Africa have received one vaccine dose. Within the next few days, we will have administered vaccine doses to more than one million of the most vulnerable South Africans,” the President said.
There are now more than 400 vaccination sites in operation across the country in both the public and private sectors.
“As we have previously reported, we have secured enough vaccines to reach all adults in the country, which is around 40 million people. This includes 31 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a single dose, and which will be manufactured here in South Africa.
“It includes 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses to provide full protection,” the President said.
He noted that the scheduled delivery of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines has been delayed due to regulatory issues related to lack of adherence to proper standards at a manufacturing plant in the United States.
“We are waiting for these issues to be resolved before the first batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines can be released from the facility in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape.
“While this is a challenge that has affected the supply of vaccines for many countries and not just in our country, we are in constant contact with the relevant authorities to ensure that our doses can be released as soon as possible,” the President said.
About 1.3 million Pfizer doses have already been distributed and nearly 500 000 administered.
“The next 636 000 doses arrive tonight, with weekly deliveries of an equivalent volume until end June, when we will receive 2.5 million doses. Our reliance on the Pfizer vaccine for now has affected the pace at which we are able to open vaccination sites.
“Due to the properties of the Pfizer vaccine which requires an ultra-cold supply chain, inclusion of smaller sites and sites in more rural areas is limited,” the President said.
He said when the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been cleared, it will be much easier to administer.
“It is a single dose vaccine and can be stored in a normal fridge. While our vaccine rollout ramps up over the coming weeks, I urge everyone to be patient and to await their turn.
“It is important that we allow healthcare workers and those above the age of 60 to be vaccinated first, as they are most at risk of severe illness or hospitalisation,” the President said.
More than three million registered for vaccine
Over three million people have registered on the Electronic Vaccine Data System.
“The Electronic Vaccine Data System forms the backbone of the programme to manage registration and the allocation of vaccines. The system links people who have registered to a vaccination site near them. The system enables the national team to monitor vaccine use and to deploy vaccines to where they are needed,” the President said.
He acknowledged that there might have been some challenges that inconvenienced people and sometimes caused delays.
“Fortunately, these have been attended to quickly and the system is being continually adapted and strengthened as the rollout proceeds. There are other challenges we are working to address,” the President said.
There are four ways that citizens can register to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. They include the following:
The online registration platform available on the SA Coronavirus website.
Dialling *134*832# and registering via USSD.
Sending the word “register” via WhatsApp to 0600 123 456.
Calling the national toll-free call centre on 0800 029 999, where somebody will help with registration and answer any questions about the vaccination rollout.
Government is continuing discussions with other vaccine manufacturers so that they can be included in the country’s vaccines programme.
“Some of these manufacturers are in the process of seeking the necessary approvals from our health products authority,” the President said.
The continent is also pushing ahead with efforts to expand its vaccine manufacturing capacity with a view to be self-sufficient in vaccine production
“We are also part of the global effort to ensure that all countries have access to sufficient vaccines as a matter of urgency. We are continuing to urge all countries to support a waiver of the TRIPS agreement at the World Trade Organisation so that COVID-19 vaccines and treatments can be produced on a greater scale, at lower cost and at a faster pace,” the President said.SAnews