South Africa on Monday took delivery of its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines, a move paving the way to the first phase of inoculation in Africa’s worst-hit country.
Public broadcaster SABC showed President Cyril Ramaphosa at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International airport receiving one million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India.
Another half-a-million doses of the vaccine are expected later this month.
The jabs will be administered to some 1.2 million health workers, the key target in the first phase of vaccination.
Injections will start to be administered in about two weeks after the vaccines go through quarantine, regulatory and quality-control procedures.
With at least 1.45 million detected infections and more than 44,000 fatalities, South Africa has the highest number of cases and deaths in Africa.
The authorities plan to vaccinate at least 67 percent of the population, or 40 million people, by year’s end.
The government, which has been accused of being slow to acquire Covid vaccines, announced at the weekend that it had secured an additional 20 million doses — this time of the Pfizer/BioNTech formula.
South Africa’s outbreak has been accelerated by a new variant said to be more contagious than earlier strains of the virus.