South Africa launches coronavirus vaccine campaign

Thursday February 18 2021
Cyril Ramaphosa.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine shot at the Khayelitsha Hospital in Cape Town on February 17, 2021. PHOTO | GIANLUIGI GUERCIA | POOL | AFP


South Africa launched its coronavirus vaccine campaign on Wednesday using Johnson & Johnson jabs, after the rollout was delayed over concerns the Oxford-AstraZeneca formula would not protect against a widespread variant.

A nurse at a hospital in Khayelitsha township in Cape Town was the first to be immunised, hours after the first batch of 80,000 doses landed in the country late Tuesday.

She looked relaxed as she received the jab, which was broadcast on live television. 

South Africa took delivery of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines at an event closed to the press, a departure from the fanfare two weeks ago when it received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs. 

The new vaccines, only recently approved by the national health authorities, were distributed to 16 vaccination centres overnight.

The stock is part of a consignment of nine million doses that South Africa secured from the American pharmaceutical giant. 


The first doses will be administered to healthcare workers as part of a study by the country's medical research authority.

Another 420,000 doses will be delivered over the next four weeks.

The country -- the worst affected by the virus in Africa -- suspended its vaccine rollout after a study found the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab failed to prevent mild and moderate illness caused by a variant found in South Africa.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been proven to be 57 percent effective against the variant, identified as 501Y.V2. 

South Africa has recorded nearly 1.5 million coronavirus infections, including more than 48,000 deaths. 

It is emerging from a second wave of infections -- fuelled by the new strain of the virus -- and has seen the number of daily cases drop from highs of 20,000 in early January to slightly over 1,000 this week.