President says during Sona that SA has secured 9 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines
President Cyril Ramaphosa has confirmed that the first batch of 80,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccination doses will arrive in the country next week.
Ramaphosa said further consignments would arrive over the next four weeks, with 500,000 J&J vaccines arriving in the next month. In total, SA had secured 9 million doses of the J&J vaccine, he said.
The president was speaking during his fifth state of the nation address in Cape Town on Thursday night.
Ramaphosa said that an “unrelenting and comprehensive response” to overcome the coronavirus was fundamental to the nation’s recovery. He said all provinces had rollout plans in place as the first vaccines come through.
“This year, we must do everything in our means to contain and overcome this pandemic. This means intensifying our prevention efforts and strengthening our health system,” said Ramaphosa. “It also means that we must undertake a huge vaccination programme to save lives and dramatically reduce infections across the population,” he added.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize announced earlier this week that one of the vaccines that SA had procured, AstraZeneca, offered minimal protection from mild to moderate infection by the 501Y.v2 variant, which is dominant in this country. However, experts said it was likely that it would be effective against severe Covid-19 illness, as it was similar in many ways to the J&J vaccine.
Ramaphosa said these findings has significant implications for the pace, design and sequencing of our vaccine programme.
“While it should not delay the start of the vaccination programme by much, it will affect the choice of vaccines and the manner of their deployment,” he said.
The first phase of the vaccination programme, which is targeted at health and other front-line workers, will now use the J&J vaccine, which has been shown to be effective against the 501Y.V2 variant.
In addition, SA has secured 12 million vaccine doses from the global COVAX facility.
Pfizer has also committed 20 million vaccine doses, commencing with deliveries at the end of the first quarter.
“We are continuing our engagements with all the vaccine manufacturers to ensure that we secure sufficient quantities of vaccines that are suitable to our conditions,” said Ramaphosa.
He acknowledged that this was no ordinary year, and his speech was no ordinary Sona.
He said government had four overriding priorities this year, and defeating the coronavirus pandemic was the first.
Accelerating economic recovery, implementing economic reforms to create sustainable jobs and drive inclusive growth, and fighting corruption and strengthening the state were the other focus areas for the year.