Johannesburg, Feb 17 (PTI) South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was among the first recipients of the COVID-19 jab on Wednesday to build confidence among people about the government's phased vaccination programme, as the country launched the inoculation drive to tackle the deadly virus.
Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize joined 18 health care workers to lead the rollout of the 80,000 Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines that were received on Tuesday from Belgium.
These vaccines replaced some of the one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine received earlier from the Serum Institute of India, which were to be used in the phased rollout to health care and other critical workers.
The AstraZeneca vaccine was shown to have reduced efficacy against a new variant discovered in South Africa.
“I’d like to invite South Africans to take this up so that we can all be safe and healthy,” the President said as he thanked Mkhize and his team for arranging the replacement vaccine.
“At first I was a bit terrified of this long needle that was going to be imbedded into my arm, but it happened so quickly, so easily - it was just a prick on my flesh and I really didn’t feel much pain,' Ramaphosa said after getting the jab.
“This day represents a real milestone for us as South Africans that finally the vaccines are here and they are being administered.
“We are going to be rolling out this vaccine throughout the country. It’s already started in a number of health centres and I think it’s going to be flawless,' he said.
Ramaphosa said that as more vaccine doses are received, 'I think we will be able to vaccinate up to the 40 million South Africans that we should.” He also urged those who are advocating against the vaccinations to reconsider their view.
“I’d like to say to all the doomsayers who have been preaching that there is going to be total mayhem and disaster – let’s all have hope and faith in our system and in our health workers. Let’s give them an opportunity to do what they do best because they know how these vaccination processes are going to unfold.
“This is a new era for us that will mean that we restore the health of our nation and we do so through our health system that is robust and gaining strength on an ongoing basis,” he said.
The vaccination campaign started as South Africa slowly emerges from the peak of a second wave which saw stricter lockdown regulations introduced in December last year.
Despite gradually reduction in infections and deaths, 1,210 new infections were detected with 219 deaths overnight.
According to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker, the country has reported a total number of 1,494,119 infections with 48,313 deaths. PTI FH RS RS