Several thousand supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) demonstrated outside the offices of South Africa’s health regulator on Friday to protest against the slow coronavirus vaccine roll-out in Africa’s worst-hit country.

The protesters held aloft placards and flags but few wore protective masks, a Reuters photographer said.

Their march to the offices defied rules meant to curb the third wave of infections.

They demanded that Russian and Chinese vaccines be authorised to speed up the vaccination process:

Officials said that South Africa, which has recorded more than 1.8 million COVID-19 cases and more than 59 000 deaths, aimed to double daily vaccinations in the next month.

Acting Health Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, said at a news conference that it was irresponsible to hold marches and other large gatherings while infections were surging. South Africa’s immunisation efforts were set back by the revelation that AstraZeneca’s vaccine is much less effective against the dominant local coronavirus variant, and the government subsequently found it hard to access supplies from other manufacturers.

Kubayi-Ngubane briefs the media on the vaccination rollout plan:

So far, only 2.5 million vaccinations have been administered using either the one-shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine or the two-shot Pfizer alternative, out of a population of 60 million people.

Nicholas Crisp, a senior health official, said more than 100 000 people had been vaccinated per day in the last two days and the target for next week was 150 000 a day. The aim for mid-July was 200 000, and 250 000 by the end of that month.

“The president has asked us to chase a target of 300 000 a day,” he said.

Kubayi-Ngubane said Pfizer had delivered nearly 4.5 million vaccine doses in the second quarter and had committed to providing just over 15.5 million doses in the third quarter. J&J has delivered 500 000 shots for a research study targeting healthcare workers, 300 000 last week and 1.2 million on Thursday, Kubayi-Ngubane said. A further 500 000 J&J doses are expected soon, but the timing is not yet confirmed.

“With this flow of vaccines, we will be able to press ahead with the vaccination of frontline workers sector by sector,” she said.

South Africa has started immunising health workers, those aged over 60 years, and education sector employees. From 15 July the over-50s will start getting the vaccine, she said.