By SAVIOUS KWINIKA

SOUTH Africa’s coronavirus vaccination drive is in full swing and the country is now playing a historic role in the availability of vaccines in the continent.

This is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa as the number of vaccinations administered in South Africa passed the 7,5 million mark.

Around 3 million people are fully vaccinated.

At the present rate, South Africa is vaccinating on average 220 000 daily.

“In the coming weeks, this rate will increase significantly due to the arrival of more vaccine doses,” Ramaphosa said in his weekly letter on Monday.

Nearly 1,5 million single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been handed to the Department of Health in the last couple of days and over the past weekend, a donation of 5, 66 million Pfizer vaccines from the United States government began arriving in the country.

This is part of a donation of vaccines from the United States to African countries and low- and middle-income countries in other parts of the world.

“Our country is also making history,” Ramaphosa said.

He said the first COVID-19 vaccines produced in Africa, for Africa, were released by Aspen Pharmacare from its flagship manufacturing plant in Gqeberha last week.

These vaccines will be made available to the rest of the continent through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, which South Africa set up during a tenure as African Union chair.

“Thanks to the efforts of all involved in the multisectoral vaccine acquisition response, we now have a comfortable supply of stocks to vaccinate our population,” the president said.

South Africa’s vaccination started off badly, in February this year.

On February 7, it was announced that the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine did not work well in protecting clinical trial participants from mild or moderate illness caused by the 501.V2 variant.

The vaccination program was announced to be put on a hold.

In April, then- Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize announced the suspension of Janssen COVID-19 vaccine use following health concerns raised by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

During the July unrest, the vaccine rollout encountered a slowdown as businesses and vaccine sites were shut down due to protests and looting in Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal. – CAJ News