South Africa on Wednesday started vaccinating health workers against the coronavirus.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and a group of health workers were the first recipients of the vaccine.
“Taking the vaccine was quick, easy and not so painful. I urge all our healthcare workers to register to receive their vaccinations as they are our first line of defense against the coronavirus pandemic,’’ Ramaphosa said shortly after receiving his jab at the Khayelitsha District Hospital in Cape Town this afternoon.
South Africa received its first batch of the Johnson Johnson vaccine Tuesday night, two weeks after halting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine which was due to be rolled out this month.
The drug was stopped after a new study revealed the vaccine was less effective against the South African variant of COVID-19.
South Africa has now offered its stock of the AstraZeneca/Oxford coronavirus vaccine to the African Union, according to the health minister, who said the bloc will distribute the vaccines to African countries that express interest in acquiring them.
Africa’s most advanced economy has secured millions of doses of the Johnson Johnson vaccine, which is said to be more effective against the variant dominant in South Africa.
South Africa has the highest number of infections in the continent with 1.4 million cases and over 48,300 deaths. It is also the 16th most-affected country in the world.
Vaccinations will be done in phases with health workers getting the jabs first. The second phase will include essential workers, teachers, the elderly and those with comorbidities, Ramaphosa said.
“The third phase will include all other adults,” he added.