South Africa’s inoculation drive depends on millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arriving in the country within a few weeks.
So far, South Africa has vaccinated only 290,000 of its 1.2 million healthcare professionals using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But earlier this week, the government announced it would stop vaccinating its health workers following a report from the US Food and Drug and Administration, after preliminary reports showed rare blood clots in 6 people among the nearly 7 million who received the J&J vaccine in the US
However, no reports of blood clots have been reported in South Africa administering a dose of Johnson & Johnson jab as part of a research study because the vaccine has not yet been proven for general use in the country. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said he expects South African experts to quickly resolve the issues of the J&J vaccine so that use here can be resumed.
The beginning of online sign-ups is an important point for the country’s rollout program, Mkhize said.
Those in South Africa without internet access will be registered and inoculated at various vaccination centers around the country, he said.
He said there will be no difference between public and private healthcare users.
“The quality of services will be the same for all of us, and the system assigns a vaccination site closest to our home or where we work, not based on whether a particular site is a public or private facility,” Mkhize said.
Solly Masombuka, a 62-year-old resident of Johannesburg, said he was looking forward to being vaccinated and would register on the system.
“My daughter is a nurse and she used the online system to register when they opened it for healthcare workers so she will help get me registered to mine,” he said.
“I look forward to being vaccinated, but it’s still early because we’ll only be vaccinated probably in a month from now,” Masombuka said.
South Africa has been hardest hit by the African pandemic with more than 1.5 million confirmed cases and more than 53,000 deaths, representing more than 30% of reported cases and almost 50% of official deaths in all 54 continents of the continent.
South Africa has ordered 31 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 30 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with plans to vaccinate 40 million of the country’s 60 million people by February next year.
The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which requires two doses and ultra-cold storage, will be used in the country’s cities, which have better access to freezers and the logistics of administering two doses. The J&J vaccine is given in rural South Africa.