The atmosphere was jubilant as President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize got their first injection of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Khayelitsha District Hospital on Wednesday.
“I’ve just had my vaccination. First I was a bit terrified of this long needle that is going to be embedded into my arm, but it happened so quickly, so easily. It was just a prick on my flesh and I really did not feel much pain,” were Ramaphosa’s first words to the nation after the jab.
Referring to his State of the Nation address, he said: “This is a new era for us, and an era that will mean that we restore the health of the nation and we do so through our health system that is robust, and that is gaining strength on an ongoing basis.”
Talking about the vaccine itself the president had a strong message of encouragement that “being vaccinated is a fairly straightforward process, and I would like to invite South Africans to take this up so that we can all be safe and healthy”.
He also had a message for doomsayers “who [have] been preaching that there will be total mayhem and disaster. Let’s all have hope and faith in our system and health workers and let’s give them the opportunity to do what they do best.
“We are going to be rolling out this vaccine throughout the country, it has already started in a number of health centres. I think it’s going to be flawless, it’s going to be done effectively and as we get more and more of these vaccines we will be able to vaccinate up to the 40-million South Africans that we should,” said Ramaphosa.
The procurement and final authorisation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine came after efficacy concerns of the AstraZeneca vaccine against the new Covid-19 variant were raised, ultimately resulting in the temporary pause of the national vaccine roll-out plan.
Mkhize added that on Wednesday 80 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been distributed to more than 50 sites in the country. This is part of phase one of the roll-out plan where healthcare workers, of which 400 000 nurses have registered so far, will be vaccinated. MECs will be vaccinated to encourage people to have the vaccine when phase two is implemented.