South Africa launches large-scale jabs rollout
Published: May 17, 2021 06:03 PM
After much delay and on the cusp of a third wave, South Africa on Monday launched a large-scale COVID-19 immunization campaign, targeting around 5 million people aged over 60 by the end of June.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said late Sunday that the target would be achieved if the anticipated orders of vaccines were delivered on time.

"We will begin to vaccinate citizens 60 years and older, who are the most vulnerable for becoming ill or dying of COVID-19," the minister said during a webinar.

Despite being Africa's worst virus-hit country, ­registering more than 1.6 million cases, including 55,210 deaths, South Africa has vaccinated less than 480,000 people or just 1 ­percent of its population, ­mainly health workers in a mass clinical trial operation. 

The immunization of health workers started in February when it became the first ­country worldwide to administer inoculations by US pharmaceutical group Johnson & Johnson.

The government, which has been widely criticized for the sluggish immunization campaign, says it has ordered enough doses to vaccinate at least 45 million of the ­estimated 59 million population.

"By the end of June, we expect to have received 4.5 million doses of Pfizer and 2 million doses from Johnson & Johnson," Mkhize said.

South Africa purchased ­AstraZeneca vaccines earlier in 2021 and then sold them to other African countries. After a brief lull, infections have climbed by as much as 46 percent between the last week of April and the first week of May.
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