President Cyril Ramaphosa and health minister Zweli Mkhize will be among the first group of those receiving  the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in Cape Town on Wednesday afternoon.

Ramaphosa, in a statement, said it gave him “great pleasure to announce that the first batch of 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being prepared for distribution across SA with immediate effect”.

The J&J vaccine arrived in the country on Tuesday evening and will be administered from several sites in a number of provinces from Wednesday afternoon.

“To demonstrate our confidence in this vaccine and help allay any fears that people may have, the minister of health and I will join the first healthcare workers to receive the vaccine in Khayelitsha [township in Cape Town],” Ramaphosa said.

This is the second batch of vaccines to arrive in SA after the AstraZeneca vaccines which were later found to offer little protection against the Covid-19 variant currently prevalent in the country.

Mkhize announced on Tuesday that the AstraZeneca, which was imported from India a few weeks ago, would be given to the African Union for distribution in other African countries.

Ramaphosa said the J&J vaccine has been given the green light to be rolled out in the country

“As this batch has already been approved by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) under the Sisonke protocol, these vaccines will be rapidly dispatched to all provinces,” Ramaphosa said.

He added: “We are pleased that we are able to begin vaccination by mid-February, as we had announced. This is despite the fact that the AstraZeneca vaccine that we had procured for this purpose showed little efficacy against the 501Y.V2 variant that is currently dominant in South Africa.”

Ramaphosa said the J&J vaccine has been shown in extensive trials to be safe and efficacious and will protect healthcare workers from illness and possible death from Covid-19 which has claimed more than 45,000 lives in the country since March last year.

“We have called on leaders in various sectors and parts of the country to lead by example and get inoculated publicly. We will therefore witness some premiers, MECs and leaders from civil society, religious formations and traditional leadership being vaccinated in all provinces.”

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