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SA receives first COVID-19 vaccine shipment

Feb. 2, 2021 3 min read

3 min read

JOHANNESBURG - On an unusually dreary Johannesburg day, a figurative ray of sunshine: the arrival of the first pallets of coronavirus vaccines that will, in about two weeks, begin making their way into the arms of South Africans.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and other dignitaries stood on the tarmac, masked and under dark umbrellas in the driving rain, as the Emirates flight carrying the first vaccine shipment landed at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport Monday afternoon. This shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine was purchased from an Indian manufacturer, officials said.

Ramaphosa did not speak to the public, but in a statement, said, “The scale of delivery is unprecedented in terms of the number of people who have to be reached within a short space of time.”

The first vaccines, he said, will go to 1.2 million front-line health workers. 

South Africa is the continent’s viral hotspot, with 1.4 million confirmed cases since the virus turned up in the country in March. The nation experienced the start of a second wave -- featuring a new variant that is significantly more contagious -- in late December, but the peak of that wave appears to be subsiding. Current vaccines are expected to work on the South African variant, called 501.V2, said the head of the nation’s coronavirus task force, Dr. Salim Abdool Karim.

The rest of the continent is awaiting shipment of about 300 million vaccines. South Africa will now become the fifth African nation to roll out vaccinations, after Morocco, Egypt, the Seychelles and Guinea.

Ramaphosa is expected to address the nation late Monday about its continuing coronavirus precautions and restrictions.

The president said wealthy countries should not hold onto excess stockpiles of COVID-19 vaccines, and that the world needs to work together to fight the pandemic. 

He told a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum that those who have hoarded vaccines need to release them “so that other countries can have them.” 

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"The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines,” Ramaphosa said.  

“Some countries even acquired up to four times what their population needs ... to the exclusion of other countries." 

The South African leader said the world is not safe if some countries are vaccinating their people, but others are not. 

U.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine appears to produce virus-neutralizing antibodies against new variants of the coronavirus found in Britain and South Africa.   

In a statement, the company said it conducted studies to ensure the two-dose regimen of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is protective against emerging strains of the virus detected to date.  VOA News


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