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Vaccination programme to gain speed

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With the country due to mark one year since the first case of COVID-19 was reported, the vaccination programme continues to edge forward, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.

Government said the President, has long held the view that vaccines would be the “most decisive measure to combat COVID-19”.

In the 10 days since the launch of South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination programme got underway, more than 67 000 health workers have been inoculated.

The President said this as a new batch of 80 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrived in the country on Saturday.

“The start of our vaccination campaign has gone extremely well. It has shown what we can achieve when we work together as government, the scientific community and the private sector,” said the President in his address to the nation.

To date, all provinces have established vaccination sites and have put in place plans for the expansion of the programme as it gains momentum. From next week, the number of sites that will be available for vaccination will be expanded from 17 to 49 sites.

Of the 49 sites, 32 will be at public hospitals and 17 sites in private hospitals.  This includes sites in rural areas to improve access to rural healthcare workers.

Phase two

Once the vaccination of healthcare workers has been completed, phase two of the vaccination roll-out will begin in late April or early May.

Phase two will include the elderly, essential workers, persons living or working in institutional settings and those with co-morbidities.

For the second phase, more sites for vaccination in the public and private healthcare sector will be activated.

“We have recently signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson to secure 11 million doses.  Of these doses, 2.8 million doses will be delivered in the second quarter and the rest spread throughout the year.”

The President who last addressed the nation on 1 February, said government has also secured 20 million doses from Pfizer, which will be delivered from the second quarter.

“Additionally, we have secured 12 million vaccine doses from the COVAX facility and are in the process of finalising our dose allocation from the African Union.  We are in constant contact with various other vaccine manufacturers to ensure that we have the necessary quantities of vaccines when we need them,” he said.

Overcoming the pandemic

The President also reflected on the time since the country reported its first case of COVID-19 on 5 March 2020, this as nearly 50 000 people have been reported to have died from the disease.

“So much has changed in our country and in our lives. But the spirit of our people has not changed,” he said in the televised address.

South Africa’s people, he said, have endured the greatest hardships, but remained resolute, united and hopeful.

“This pandemic has taken much from us, but it has not taken our strength, our courage or our sense of solidarity as a people. It has not dampened our spirit or weakened our resolve.

Our uniquely South African spirit has allowed us to remain steadfast in the face of an unprecedented threat, and which will continue to inspire us as we chart a path to recovery,” he said.

As the vaccination campaign gathers pace, the President appealed to the public to exercise extreme caution to protect “ourselves and others”.

“Together with our scientists and experts, we will continue to monitor the situation closely and to adapt our approach in a responsive and flexible manner,” he said.