The Department of Health says there is a surge in demand for the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine that South Africa has begun rolling out.

The vaccine provides 57% protection against moderate to severe disease, 85% protection against severe disease and 100% protection against death, based on evidence from the clinical trials that included South African participants.

More than 10 000 healthcare workers nationwide have so far received their doses.

“The response from private healthcare professionals has been heartening and exceeded expectations across several sites. The confidence by healthcare workers in the vaccine and the protection it offers is evident in the queues and higher than planned demand from doctors and nurses across the country,” adds the Health Department.

The Health Minister says the high demand has led to a longer waiting time, which the Department, private sector partners and the Sisonke Programme team are working towards resolving in real-time.

“We are confident that our partnership across public and private sectors will help to overcome these short-term process challenges and result in us being able to protect many healthcare workers in a shorter period of time,” the statement reads.

Dr Nisha Jacob reacts to COVID-19 vaccine rollout in SA: 

Government has also expressed satisfaction with how phase one of the vaccination programme is faring.

In partnership with the Sisonke Early Access Programme, the Health Department says they have managed to vaccine more than 10 000 healthcare workers since Wednesday.

The Ministry says it has allocated one-third of the country’s 80 000 vaccine doses to private sector healthcare workers.

More than 3 000 healthcare workers from the private sector have so far been vaccinated. They began receiving their vaccines on Saturday.

“This means that one-third of the first 80 000 vaccines will be allocated to the private sector over the next 14 days. All healthcare workers, irrespective of where they work, need to be vaccinated. This is critical and is aligned with the national prioritization framework for Phase 1 of the national vaccine roll-out programme,” says the Department.

Healthcare workers are urged to use the government’s EVDS system to register on: https://vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za.

Western Cape round of vaccinations

Over 1 300 healthcare workers have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the Western Cape. The first phase of the vaccine roll-out continued on Sunday, with private doctors getting inoculated at Tygerberg and Groote Schuur hospitals in Cape Town.

The provincial health department says it is targeting 500 inoculations a day at both sites, with 100 a day at Khayelistha District Hospital.

Dr Dhevan Naidoo practices as a GP in Khayelitsha and Mfuleni. Usually, he would be the one administering injections, but today Naidoo was on the receiving end of the needle, as one of the first private doctors to be vaccinated at Groote Schuur hospital.

“At the moment it’s the best defence we have. The actual process it’s totally painless. The injection you won’t feel a thing. I think a bee sting is a little bit more painful than this, it’s pretty coordinated. There’s a little bit of a wait but just to make sure things are done properly I’ve had COVID-19 before which I have recovered from and it’s not a pleasant experience so it’s definitely if you get a chance to get the vaccine – get it,” Dr Naidoo urges.

The province received 13 000 of the initial 80 000 Johnson and Johnson doses, which arrived in the country last week. Dr Shabir Moolla was among the first to get the vaccine.

“It’s going to assist me tremendously because I see patients as a first line practitioner presenting with COVID-19 symptoms. If I am protected it can at least safeguard me and I can continue managing patients and delivering service that we are supposed to be doing,” Moolla says.

The current rollout forms part of the implementation study for clinical trials. As such, rural areas have not yet been included at this stage.

“We came up with the sequencing format for the equitable access so that those who are exposed to vulnerability like the aged – they have comorbidities and according to criticality, whether you work at ICU – these are the people that need to be vaccinated first,” he adds.

Some frontline workers at the hospital say they are also eager to get their inoculations.

Porter Vuyisile Dube says: “I’m so glad to see all the people are here to take the vaccine. For me – it makes me feel good to see people ready to take the vaccine. I’m also one of the people who are going to take this because we must take this.”

SA’s long-awaited COVID-19 vaccination rollout kicks off in Khayelitsha:

The nationwide vaccination programme was launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhise, with a Western Cape healthcare worker being the first person have taken the jab on Wednesday.

– Additional reporting by Mlamli Maneli