WITH over 52 000 Covid-19-related deaths, the Health Department is under pressure to get people vaccinated to achieve population immunity.

But the department has had to deal with quite a few hurdles since the first batch of vaccines touched down in Mzansi.

  • In January, when the first batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine was supposed to be shipped from the Serum Institute of India, the institute building caught fire. But hope was restored after it was reported that the Mzansi-bound vaccine was not affected.
  • In the beginning of February, a high-profile delegation of government officials, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize as well as the media, braved the pouring rains to welcome the first shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine at OR Tambo Airport in Ekurhuleni.

The excitement around the vaccine quickly died down after it was discovered that the doses were about to expire in the next two months – by the end of April.

With the expiration date approaching, the department couldn’t administer doses due to the discovery of a new variant of the virus. It was found that AstraZeneca would not be effective against the new variant. The doses were eventually sold.

  • Johnson & Johnson came through and the vaccine was being administered, starting with health workers. Going mostly smoothly, with just under 300 000 vaccinated in the first phase, the next phase was supposed to focus on the elderly, police and other essential workers.

However, this might be delayed after the recent decision to halt the roll-out of the single dose J&J vaccine. The decision came after cases of blood clotting were reported in the USA.

The suspension of the roll-out in South Africa is a precautionary measure as no case of blood clotting has been reported.

Speaking on Tuesday, 13 April, Mkhize said: “We expect that the decision shouldn’t have any significant impact on the roll-out, seeing that at this point we have only done 300 000 people and in the next few days we are doing another 200 000.”

He said they expected the matter to be cleared within the next few days.

“We expect the first batch of a million vaccines to be coming from J&J towards the end of the week,” he said.