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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Vaccine jabs a milestone in road towards recovery

Medical experts call for the more effective treatments for the strain in SA.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize were among the first high-profile figures to be vaccinated in Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) roll-out of 80,000 doses for the study of the effects of the vaccination, along with front-line healthcare workers, at 17 hospital sites across the country.

Taking off his jacket and rolling up his sleeve, a buoyant Ramaphosa received a jab administered by sister Milanie Bennett at Khayelitsha District Hospital.

He thereafter gave a thumbs up sign, amid the clapping of a group witnessing the historic occasion, which included SA Medical Research Council president professor Glenda Gray.

READ MORE: Here is SA’s first-ever citizen to take the Covid-19 jab

A leading medical expert, who described the move as “a good start”, urged government to widen the net by bringing Pfizer and Sputnik V into the vaccine mix to attain an efficacy much higher than J&J’s 57% against the highly
contagious variant, 501Y.V2.

Mkhize said in his speech during the debate on the State Of the Nation Address (Sona) this week that the immediate rollout of phase one had been made possible by the “fact that the 300,000 doses of the now proven and efficacious J&J vaccines were already tested and approved by Sahpra [SA Health Products Regulatory Authority]for use under
study conditions”.

An emergency room doctor at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital gets his injection of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vacinne, 17 February 2021, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Professor Heather Zar of the University of Cape Town’s department of paediatrics and child health at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital said: “It is fantastic that at last we have seen the vaccine rollout – a good start.

“But we obviously need a huge upscaling of this because vaccination is going to be our greatest weapon in combating
this pandemic and getting back to a normal economy, living and schooling.

“We need as much vaccine as we can get to be urgently rolled out. This is besides the J&J vaccine but other vaccines,” said Zar.

“And given J&J’s moderate efficacy of 57%, it would be great to consider vaccines with higher impact against our variant, like Pfizer and Sputnik V, both of which have shown a much higher efficacy.”

Zar said the most reassuring result in the J&J trial was the 85% protective efficacy against severe disease.

Dr Mathabo Mathebula CEO of Steve Biko Academic Hospital gets her injection of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vacinne, 17 February 2021, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

“It would be great to have a vaccine of greater efficacy against the new strain of Covid-19.”

South African Medical Association (SAMA) president Dr Angelique Coetzee said:

“I am very happy that finally the rolling out of the vaccine has started. We are moving in the right direction. We urgently need to vaccinate our healthcare workers after having lost over 600,000 since the start of the pandemic.

“J&J is 85% efficacious in more severe diseases and hospitalisation – what we are looking for in hospitals and [intensive care units].”

ALSO READ: Here are the 18 sites where SA’s first vaccinations will take place

Ramaphosa said: “She [the nurse] took me through the consent form and explained the inoculation process to me thoroughly before I took the vaccine shot.

Taking the vaccine was quick, easy and not so painful.

“I urge all our healthcare workers to register to receive their vaccinations as they are our first line of defence against the coronavirus pandemic.”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is briefed by a nurse before getting inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine shot at the Khayelitsha Hospital in Cape Town on February 17, 2021. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / POOL / AFP)

Cape Town Tourism chief executive Enver Duminy said: “Today marks a milestone in our road towards recovery. Today at Khayelitsha Hospital in Cape Town the very first inoculation of our front-line healthcare workers occurred.

“This is definitely a milestone for all of us in South Africa, especially since we’ve been suffering under the pandemic and extensive lockdowns over the past year.”

READ MORE: Nehawu, Denosa hail vaccine rollout, calls on govt to acquire more doses

Countrywide vaccination sites include the Steve Biko Academic and Chris Hani Baragwanath hospitals, with nurse Zoliswa Gidi-Dyosi becoming the country’s first health worker to be inoculated.

During a walkabout at Soweto’s Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital to monitor the first day of inoculation, Gauteng premier David Makhura said he was not receiving the jab because healthcare workers came first, with health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi being among front-line workers to be vaccinated.

South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize is inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine shot at the Khayelitsha Hospital in Cape Town on February 17, 2021. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / POOL / AFP)

– brians@citizen.co.za

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