President Cyril Ramaphosa has confirmed that the first batch of the in-demand Johnson & Johnson vaccines against COVID-19 will land in South Africa next week.

In his hybrid State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday, the President told the country the first phase of the vaccination programme would go as planned and that healthcare workers would now get the Johnson & Johnson jab.

According to the President, the country has secured nine million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, of which 80 000 doses will arrive in the country next week. About 500 000 vials of vaccines will follow in the next four weeks.

“All provinces have roll-out plans in place as the first vaccines come through,” he assured the country.

The Johnson & Johnson shot has shown to be effective against the 501Y.V2 variant. This comes after it was found that the 1.5 million AstraZeneca vaccines that had been procured offered minimal protection from mild to moderate infection by the new variant dominant in South Africa.

“This is according to early findings of a study by our scientists and researchers,” he explained.

The First Citizen applauded the scientists for leading this research and providing new evidence that is vital for guiding the country’s COVID-19 response. The findings are significant for the pace, design and sequencing of the government’s vaccine programme.

“While it should not delay the start of the vaccination programme by much, it will affect the choice of vaccines and the manner of their deployment.”

Government has also secured 12 million vaccine doses from the global COVAX facility and 20 million from Pfizer, which will be delivered at the end of the first quarter.

“We are continuing our engagements with all the vaccine manufacturers to ensure that we secure sufficient quantities of vaccines that are suitable for our conditions.”

The President once again committed to the health and safety of citizens, which he said remained paramount. All medication imported into the country is monitored, evaluated, investigated, inspected and registered by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority.

He said the country would continue to use the science-driven approach that has served the nation well since the outbreak.

“The success of the vaccination programme will rely on active collaboration between all sectors of society.”

Meanwhile, he said government was encouraged by the involvement of business, labour, the health industry and medical schemes in particular in preparing for this mass vaccination drive.

“As we have overcome before, we will overcome again and rise,” he added.

The President expressed his gratitude to all the provinces for their level of preparedness for this massive undertaking that they are about to embark upon.

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