JOHANNESBURG (AP) – After a false start and an unusual test, South Africa on Friday announced its mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19, which aims to vaccinate more than 40 million people by February next year.
“We have now provided the right vaccines, we can move forward with confidence in our mass campaign,” Health Minister Mkhize told civilian groups and others.
This week, South Africa completed purchases of 51 million doses. 31 million Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccines և 20 million Pfizer two-dose vaccines, Mkhize said.
The South African vaccination campaign is slow, but will accelerate this month with deliveries of 3 million J&J և 6 million Pfizer doses, Mkhize said. Further deliveries will include the government’s goal of vaccinating 67% of the country’s 60 million people by 2022.
Criticism from leading health professionals, ordinary South Africans, about the slow purchase of vaccines has grown.
South Africa has the largest cargo of COVID-19 in Africa. With more than 1.5 million confirmed cases, including 53,173 deaths, the country accounts for more than 30% of the 4.3 million reported cases from 54 countries on the continent. South Africa accounts for almost half of the continent’s disease deaths.
Health experts warn that South Africa could face a resurgence of infections after the Easter holiday և as the cold winter months approach in the Southern Hemisphere.
In the first phase, 1.2 million health workers in the country are vaccinated.
To date, more than 283,000 health care workers have been vaccinated since mid-February, when the government began giving J&J doses as a large-scale test because the vaccine had not yet been approved for general use. The slow pace of more than 6,000 shots per day was limited by the arrival of J&J doses in small batches.
“Millions of doses will speed up vaccinations by more than 300,000 a day through holes in hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, shopping malls and workplaces,” Mkhize said.
Massive mass vaccinations will begin in mid-May, with the launch of the second phase, during which 16.6 million elderly, key workers and other people at risk will develop wounds. In October, South Africa will begin vaccinating the rest of its adult population of about 22.6 million, with the goal of completing it by February 2022.
Vaccines in South Africa began in February with a difficult time when the AstraZeneca vaccine was discontinued just days before it was given to healthcare workers after a small, preliminary test showed the vaccine was ineffective in preventing it. Mild և moderate cases of COVID-19 occurring in the predominant country.
South Africa later sold more than 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the African Union, which sold them to other African countries where the variant is not predominant.
South Africa is focused on J&J, which has proven effective in testing against the variant. Because the J&J vaccine had not yet been approved for general use by South Africa or international health authorities, vaccination of health care workers began as large-scale trials.
The Pfizer vaccine will be used in cities in South Africa where refrigeration and logistics are available for two doses, while the J&J vaccine is more suitable for rural areas.
Most of the J&J vaccines used in South Africa will be manufactured by Aspen Pharmaceuticals in Gqeberha, formerly Port Elizabeth. The company will receive a large batch of ingredients, then mix them, put them in bottles, a process known as supplementing and finishing. The company says it has the capacity to produce 300 million doses of the J&J vaccine a year, of which about 220 million will be sold to other African countries, the company said.
Vaccinations can not pass quickly, 27-year-old Tumelo Seraj, who works at a gas station in Johannesburg.
He said he was concerned that he was being exposed to a lot of clients at work.
“We always wear masks and clean, but a lot of people get infected even when they do. “Some of my colleagues were infected, but fortunately they recovered,” he said. “The safest way at the moment is to get the vaccine as soon as possible.”