South Africa finally begins Covid-19 vaccination programme

After receiving 800,000 doses from Johnson & Johnson, the country finally set to commence inoculation programme.

On Tuesday night, 80,000 doses of J&J’s vaccine arrived in the country to less fanfare than was the case when AstraZeneca’s vaccine arrived on February 1st. Having reported a total of 1,494,119 cases and 48,313 deaths to date, South Africa is the hardest hit African country - accounting for more than a third of the continent’s infections and almost half of its deaths. The initial rollout of the J&J vaccine will be in the form of an implementation study after the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) gave its nod. This will allow for the effects of the vaccine to be tested in around 350,000 to 500,000 health care workers while the full dossier is being reviewed.

To date, the country has secured a total of nine million doses of the J&J vaccine and another 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine as it looks to vaccinate about 40 million people – about two-thirds of the population - by year end. It also expects more doses to be secured through the African Union and the Covax scheme. Although Pfizer and AstraZeneca have also applied for SAHPRA clearance for their respective vaccines, J&J was the first major to apply for registration of its vaccine. According to the South African Medical Association, the single-dose vaccine will be administered at 17 sites across the country, with some healthcare workers expected to receive their doses as early as Wednesday.