President Cyril Ramaphosa has received one million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca, from India. The batch arrived at the OR Tambo International Airport Monday afternoon.
Both the President and his Deputy David Mabuza were at the OR Tambo International Airport.
Ramaphosa says he’s delighted the vaccine is here.
“Well we are delighted the vaccines are here now the one million and the minister will outline everything after we have received them but we are happy and I will be covering you tonight.”
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says procuring the first one million shots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is a milestone for South Africa.
The health department says the vaccine is expected to undergo a rigorous, multi-stage testing process to ensure its safe for use.
Mkhize says this is a welcome move. “It has been a challenge because firstly, the playing field has not been levelled. The countries that got a lot of resources were able to receive early which were not able to do, but also once that has been done it has been a challenge to reach some kind of agreement because of the kind of pressure of global demand. And so, we are excited about this and we actually making lots of advances in getting additional doses. We will be able to get enough doses of vaccines for all those who will be vaccinated.”
The first shots of the vaccine will be used to inoculate healthcare workers amid a surge in infections. South Africa has been the worst hit on the African continent and has reported the most cases so far.
There are growing calls for the government to distribute quickly to prevent further deaths and the spread of the coronavirus.
SA has been the worst-hit country on the African continent and has reported the most cases so far. About 40 million South Africans are expected to have been vaccinated by the end of this year.
The government says this will help in the fight to curb the pandemic. While healthcare workers are first in line to receive the much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine, other essential workers are also looking forward to receiving the promised protection against the ongoing global pandemic.
Some teachers have also expressed relief and hope that they will be prioritised in the National Department of Health’s vaccination rollout.
Delia Hamlett is a private school teacher. “The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine has honestly brought me immense relief. This pandemic has devastated so many lives and has wreaked havoc on children’s education. I believe vaccinating teachers is a critical step towards putting education back on track. And so I hope teachers are prioritised in vaccine rollouts, after healthcare workers and first responders, of course. Alongside teachers, we should also prioritise those whose services have finally been deemed and recognised as essential during this pandemic, our retail workers, our waste management services, public transport, and so on. This vaccine means that I can finally take a step towards teaching from a safer place and teaching the whole learner. It means that I can finally get back into the classroom, as so many teachers and children are desperate to do and it means that I can help those I teach move forward.”
Traditional healers also want to be prioritised
After arrival, the vaccine will undergo technical processes, which includes a quarantine, which is specified in the law of quality assurance to check as to many are there, how many are broken and how many need to be returned back and all of those issues needed to ensure safe distribution of the vaccine. These processes will take a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of 14 days to complete.
While the radar is on the healthcare workers thus far, traditional healers say they have not been given an indication as to when they will be eligible to receive the vaccine.
“It will be very important if they can also assist the traditional practitioners in terms of empowering them, giving them knowledge, making them understand what is COVID-19 so that they can prevent themselves and they can also prevent the client (from getting it), so it is really sad that we are left behind. We are left behind and we don’t even know if we are included in the second phase or if we will wait for everyone to be vaccinated,” says President of the SADC Unified Traditional Practitioners Association Professor Sylvester Hlathi.
Roll-out of vaccine
Meanwhile, healthcare facilities across the country are preparing to support the National Department of Health in the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Mediclinic has submitted our figures to request sufficient vaccines from the National Department of Health in order to support all healthcare workers within our facilities including doctors and allied healthcare professionals. We have also applied for all our Mediclinic facilities to be registered as vaccination centres to further assist in the rollout of vaccines. Vaccinators are currently undergoing online training to ensure that we comply with all regulations relating to the rollout,” says Chief Clinical Officer of Mediclinic Southern Africa, Gerrit de Villiers.