South Africa’s first coronavirus vaccine doses arrived by plane on Monday, offering some relief for health workers, which was stretched and ranked first during a second wave of infections.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and other senior officials were at OR Tambo International Airport to receive the 1 million shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India (SII).
Some scientists and health workers have publicly criticized the Ramaphosa government for failing to secure access to vaccines sooner.
Speaking to state broadcaster SABC, Ramaphosa said he was pleased that the first shots had arrived and that he would say more during a speech to the nation scheduled for 1800 GMT.
South Africa has had the largest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths on the African continent, with more than 1.4 million cases and over 44,000 deaths.
Since the end of last year, it has been fighting a more contagious variant of the virus called 501Y.V2, which has also been detected in countries in Europe, America and Asia.
The recordings received on Monday will be checked approximately 10 to 14 days before the start of vaccinations.
The SII is expected to send an additional 500,000 cans later this month. But more will be needed to serve the 1.25 million health care workers in South Africa as the AstraZeneca / Oxford University vaccine is given in two doses.
According to official figures, the country has received more than 50 million vaccine doses through bilateral negotiations with pharmaceutical companies, the COVAX vaccine distribution program jointly run by the World Health Organization, and an agreement by the African Union (AU).
That is almost enough to vaccinate the target of 40 million people or two-thirds of the population this year, as a significant proportion of the expected shots come from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is given in one dose.
Other African countries are more reliant on COVAX or the AU for dispensing of doses, and the majority have yet to receive their first shipments of vaccine.
The Biovac Institute, the company that will store and distribute the first 1 million cans, has stepped up security and created backup plans in the event of a power failure, its chief executive Morena Makhoana told Reuters.
A random sample of vaccine bottles will be sent to Bloemfontein for quality assurance by the medical regulatory agency SAHPRA, Makhoana added.
COVAX and the AU arrangement could deliver the first of their recordings from March. Images developed by Pfizer and BioNTech could arrive around March, but the timing for Johnson & Johnson doses of promised 9 million doses is not yet clear.
The National Treasury estimates that vaccinating 40 million South Africans could cost up to 24 billion rand ($ 1.6 billion).
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)