The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) on Thursday included President Cyril Ramaphosa and Deputy President David Mabuza in its implementation study, initially targeted exclusively at healthcare workers.
South Africa received 800 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Tuesday with a further 500 000 doses expected in a few weeks, while 20-million doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected at the end of March.
“Whilst they are not classified as healthcare workers, this initiative [by the two politicians] will assist greatly in encouraging vaccine uptake, and reduce vaccine hesitancy,” explained SAHPRA CEO Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela.
The first phase of the mass vaccine roll-out began on Wednesday with healthcare workers in the public and private sector first in line to receive the jab. The next phase will include the elderly and people with comorbidities, followed by the rest of the population in the last phase of the roll-out.
Semete-Makokotlela explained that the protocol amendment was approved subject to ethics approval obtained prior to implementation of this amendment and the additional participants signing an informed consent form prior to being vaccinated.
Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize received their Covid-19 vaccine shots from the J&J consignment on Wednesday, alongside health workers at the Khayelitsha District Hospital, in the Western Cape.
Zoliswa Gidi-Dyosi was the first South African to receive the vaccine.
Ramaphosa has called on South Africans to take the vaccine to ensure the safety and health of all and assured that being vaccinated is a fairly straightforward process.
He said all provinces were ready for the vaccination process and had already begun administering the vaccine in a number of health centres.
He expressed confidence in the country’s health system, calling it robust, agile and effective.