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'Light at the end of the tunnel:' Health workers keen to receive J&J vaccine jab

The first South Africans to receive a COVID-19 vaccine will begin receiving their jabs on Wednesday afternoon, with the first Johnson & Johnson doses arriving in the country on Tuesday.

The first batch of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine arrived at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on 16 February 2021. Picture: @GovernmentZA/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - The first South Africans to receive a COVID-19 vaccine will begin receiving their jabs on Wednesday afternoon, with the first Johnson & Johnson doses arriving in the country on Tuesday.

Thousands of health workers across the nation began training last month in anticipation of the vaccines arriving in the country.

There was widespread concern after the AstraZeneca vaccine proved not to be strong enough in the fight against the 501Y.V2 variant of the coronavirus.

It was then that Johnson & Johnson reassured government that it could send theirs.

The first 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will be dispatched to 17 sites across the country as part of an implementation study starting on Wednesday. Because the vaccine has been studied in South Africa, The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority approved an extension of the study that will allow healthcare workers to be vaccinated before the vaccine is officially licensed. As those first doses are part of the study, the South African tax payer won’t be footing the bill. However, the nine million doses of that vaccine secured by government will be paid for by the fiscus.

Shaaziya Fakier, a clinic manager at the Durbanville Clinic, joins more than 3,200 health workers in the Western Cape who will be administering the jabs.

Fakier said that she was looking forward to receiving her own shot and that opting to take the vaccine was crucial in fighting this pandemic.

She said that getting to this point was a major milestone in a pandemic that’s already claimed more than two million lives worldwide.

"We've waited for this for a very long time. I hope the workers should really feel that we are valued very highly to be able to get these vaccines first.

"It's an honour and a privilege to be part of this whole historic event. People have so many fears, they have so many questions and yet there are people that are very excited as well. There's a light at the end of the tunnel if I can put it like like."

She said that taking the jab would ensure that people took charge of their health, and ultimately regained a sense of normalcy in the future.

The healthcare worker said that she had mixed feelings about a potential third wave of infections.

"If we're not going to immunise enough people before the third wave hits us, and people still think it's a joke, then I'm fearful but in the same sense I'm feeling positive that the third wave is not going to hit us as hard."

Each vaccinator is aiming to administer up to 60 shots per day.

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