‘It brings hope’ - South Africans react to arrival of first batch of vaccines

The first consignment of the COVID-19 vaccines arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday afternoon and much like elsewhere in the world, frontline workers such as nurses and doctors will be vaccinated first.

FILE: Vaccines arriving from India are transported from the aircraft to a truck at OR Tambo International Airport on 1 February 2021 before being taken to a secure location for quality assurance checks. Picture: GCIS

KEMPTON PARK - A crucial milestone has been marked in South Africa’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic as the country’s first one million AstraZeneca vaccines have arrived.

The first consignment of the COVID-19 vaccines arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday afternoon and much like elsewhere in the world, frontline workers such as nurses and doctors will be vaccinated first.

They will require two jabs administered at least four weeks apart.

South Africa will receive another 500,000 in a few weeks’ time.

READ: First batch of COVID-19 vaccines land in SA

Among those who were waiting in anticipation for the one million vaccines were ordinary South Africans who after months of enduring the battle against COVID-19, have welcomed the vaccine.

Watching the plane land from the viewing deck at OR Tambo International Airport, one bystander said hope had been restored in the country.

“It is exciting; it brings hope. Government has been working hard in the fight against COVID-19. This really gives us hope.”

WATCH: What you should know about the COVID-19 vaccine in SA

READ: Mkhize: No decision yet on whether govt leaders will be first to get vaccine

While another resident said government, securing the first batch of vaccines in less than a year since the first case was reported in the country, was a life-changing achievement.

“I think it’s going to change our lives again, as this corona changed our lives when it came. But now, at least, we are going to go back to our normal lives.”

Government aims to have 67% of the population vaccinated by the end of this year in its quest to achieve herd immunity.

OFF TO STORAGE FACILITIES

The closely guarded vials arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday afternoon where they will be distributed to other provinces so that the rollout can begin.

The mammoth task of production and distribution was undertaken by the Serum Institute in India.

With the historic arrival of the vaccines, the day also saw dark clouds and persistent rain.

Rain in some cultures symbolizes many things from cleansing to rebirth and hope and this is what many South Africans are clinging to.

After a 14-hour journey from Mumbai, Emirates Flight EK761 touched down at 3 pm to an eager audience including the president, his deputy, the health minister and other key officials.

The cargo wrapped in a thick, white plastic bag and safeguarded with a black net was carried off the plane by security personnel.

After Ramaphosa and his entourage received the shipment, it was loaded onto trucks, destined for storage facilities.

The work now begins in earnest to make sure that the vials go through all the necessary checks, temperature controls, distribution and eventually into the arms of those who desperately need them.

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