South Africa has administered its first COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday at Khayelitsha District Hospital in the Western Cape province.
The country is prioritising health care workers as it begins rolling out Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine this week.
Labour ward nurse at the hospital, Zoliswa Gidi-Dyosi, became the first recipient of the jab and was applauded by Minister of Health Dr. Zweli Mkhize, Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo, and fellow hospital workers.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister Mkhize were also vaccinated on Wednesday, alongside 16 health care workers. Preparing for the jab, Ramaphosa jokingly asked the nurse: “Can I close my eyes?”
Speaking to the media after receiving the vaccine, President Ramaphosa detailed his experience and emphasised that South Africans should not fear being vaccinated.
“At first I was a bit terrified of this long needle that was going to be embedded into my arm, but it happened so quickly, so easily, it was just a prick on my flesh and I really did not feel much pain,” said Ramaphosa.
“This day represents a real milestone for us as South Africans, that finally the vaccines are here. They are being administered and I was rather pleased that there were five people who were vaccinated before me and they are health workers,” he continued, “Being vaccinated is a fairly straightforward process, I want to invite South Africans to take this up so that we can all be safe, we can all be healthy.”
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. #WeChooseVacciNation#VaccineforSouthAfrica 🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/11tyl1f9Xs— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) February 17, 2021
The president went on to thank Minister Mkhize for working to shift South Africa’s vaccine rollout plans after it was discovered that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that the country had initially acquired was not effective in protecting against the COVID-19 strain found in South Africa.
The country welcomed 1 million doses of the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine earlier this month which it has now asked to be returned to the Serum Institute of India. In its place South Africa has acquired 9 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and has become the first country to administer it.
South Africa received 80,000 doses of the secured vaccines on Tuesday night and has already begun distributing them across the country.
The Western Cape had received 13,000 doses on Wednesday ahead of the president’s vaccination — enough to vaccinate 10% of the health workers in the province.