SA vaccinates over 2 million people as authorities give J&J study thumbs up

Government’s target is to vaccinate around 40 million people by the first quarter of next year to reach herd immunity.

An elderly woman receives her COVID-19 vaccine jab with the start of the second phase of South Africa's vaccine rollout on 17 May 2021. Picture: @GautengHealth/Twitter

CAPE TOWN – South Africa has so far administered over 2, 690, 000 vaccines across the country.

Among those are 479,000 healthcare workers who have been inoculated with the Johnson & Johnson single dose as part of the implementation program.

Government’s target is to vaccinate around 40 million people by the first quarter of next year to reach herd immunity.

The country will need to administer more than 100,000 doses every day, but the current average rate of daily vaccinations, measured since the rollout first started in February, totals less than 17,000.

South Africa's vaccination drive has been slow, with many twists and turns, however, researchers in the Sisonke COVID-19 vaccine study have said the jab is showing "good, durable immune responses".

The study was used as a vehicle in February this year, to launch a COVID-19 vaccination program for South Africa, after the AstraZeneca jab was shelved due to poor efficacy against the now dominant 501Y.V2 coronavirus variant.

Sisonke Study Co-Principal investigator, Professor Glenda Gray, on Friday said in line with international trends, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was proving to be effective against the Coronavirus.

“These vaccines, whether it’s the Pfizer or J&J (vaccines), will reduce your risk of severe disease. They may not protect you from infection, but they do protect you or reduce your risk from severe disease."

Gray said they were also keeping track of "breakthrough" infections - those vaccine recipients who still test positive despite having received a jab.

“The breakthrough infections have been mild – none of them have been severe. Every breakthrough infection that we’ve seen has been due to the new variant.”

She said towards the end of the year, researchers would explore the efficacy of boosting the single-jab J&J shot following the primary vaccination series.

Other sub-studies are being conducted to monitor the vaccine in HIV infected healthcare workers, pregnant, and lactating women; as well as healthcare workers with comorbidities to gauge immune responses to the vaccine.

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