First AstraZeneca-vaccines arrive in South Africa

The first shipment of one million Covid-19 vaccines from the Serum Institute of India has arrived on South African soil. After a celebrated send-off from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai on Sunday, the much-anticipated cargo was welcomed by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the OR Tambo International Airport on Monday, 1 February. 

One million Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines were received, while another 500 000 will arrive later this month. Ramaphosa and Deputy President David Mabuza, who chairs the inter-ministerial committee on vaccines, attended the brief welcoming ceremony at the airport. 

Before the arrival of the vaccines, the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) applauded India and South Africa’s strong relations. There has been heavy criticism of the government’s delay in securing vaccines. 

The first consignment of vaccines contributes to the government’s mammoth goal to vaccinate about 40-million citizens by the end of the year, translating to about 67% of the population.
Dirco describes it as “the largest and most complex logistical vaccine undertaking in South Africa’s history”.

However, vaccinations won’t start immediately. The vaccines will first undergo a technical process of quarantine and quality assurance by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority. This process can take up to 14 days.

Thereafter, the government will start its national vaccination campaign, which is planned to happen in three phases. Phase one will focus on frontline healthcare workers, phase two will vaccinate essential workers, persons in congregate settings, persons over 60 and those over 18 with co-morbidities. Phase three includes the inoculation of persons older than 18. During this phase, the government hopes to target more than 22-million of the population. 

During phase one, nearly 1.2-million healthcare workers hope to receive their first jabs. But this will only be possible when the second consignment of 500 000 vaccines arrives at the end of the month.

For now, healthcare workers in both private and public sectors have to register for a vaccine using an online platform called the Electronic Vaccine Data System. After registering, the worker will receive information as to when and where the vaccination will take place and a follow-up for the second dose.

Meanwhile, South Africa is experiencing a downward curve in reported Covid-19 infections. According to the national department of health, 4 525 new cases were identified since their last report, while 213 more deaths were confirmed.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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