South Africa’s coronavirus vaccine program has so far been successful, a health official said Friday.
“It’s an incredible record that 55,000 healthcare workers have so far got the vaccine. The rollout has been successful to date and I think it’s a tremendous achievement,” Glenda Gray, head of the South African Medical Research Council and head of the Johnson & Johnson implementation study in the country, told local broadcaster Newzroom Afrika.
She said the country should celebrate the fact that it would achieve its target of vaccinating almost 80,000 healthcare workers before even its 14-day target.
South Africa started vaccinating healthcare workers last Wednesday with state leaders and a group of healthcare workers as the first recipients at a hospital in Cape Town.
Africa’s most advanced economy received its first batch of 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Feb. 16, two weeks after halting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccine was stopped after a new study revealed it was less effective against the South African variant of COVID-19.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the country will receive a second batch of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well as a shipment of 600,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine before the end of the month.
Mkhize told the National Assembly on Thursday that the country is planning to vaccinate 1.1 million people by the end of March, mostly healthcare workers.
South Africa secured millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, said to be more effective against the variant dominant in South Africa.
The country has the highest number of infections on the continent, with over 1.5 million cases and nearly 50,000 deaths. It is also the 16th most-affected country in the world.
Vaccinations will be done in phases, with healthcare workers getting the jabs first. The second phase will include essential workers, teachers, the elderly, and those with comorbidities. The third phase will include all other adults.