Friday, 26 February 2021

Cape Town: Cabinet has welcomed the efforts and progress made by scientists, researchers and medical experts towards a national initiative of developing the country’s own vaccines to deal with current and future pandemics.

Addressing a Post Cabinet media briefing on Friday, acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said the country’s scientists, researchers and medical experts have been at the forefront of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and have led the genomic surveillance of COVID-19 virus which resulted in the discovery of the 501Y.V2 variant.

“In this regard, Cabinet would like to congratulate all the South African scientists and researchers who managed to recreate the virus in the laboratory for purposes of enhancing research on the treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Cabinet believes that our national science and innovation system is a valuable resource that should be nurtured and developed,” Minister Ntshavheni said.

“Even beyond the research on COVID-19, South Africa’s world-renowned scientists and innovators have delivered cutting-edge technology such as the world’s first digital laser and the Lodox full body x-ray scanner,” Ntshavheni said.

Ntshavheni said Cabinet also appreciated the commencement of the national roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, with the first doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being administered to healthcare workers (HCWs) in both the public and private sectors.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our HCWs have been the shield that kept our nation safe. They have faced the virus head-on and have persevered against an unrelenting virus. Their selfless sacrifice has saved countless lives and our nation owes them an immense debt of gratitude.

“Their vaccination will help protect them against infection and ultimately return our nation to normalcy. Cabinet is pleased that millions of additional vaccines procured from several sources will arrive at varying intervals in the coming months, beginning in March 2021,” Ntshavheni said.

Once HCWs have been vaccinated as part of Phase 1 of the vaccination roll-out strategy, Phase 2 will focus on essential workers and vulnerable groups which include people over the age of 60 years, people with comorbidities as well as those living in places such as nursing homes and hostels.

Ntshavheni also reminded citizens that vaccination is free and voluntary and remains the best defence against the virus coupled with the continued adherence to the health protocols of avoiding large gatherings, wearing a mask in public, sanitising hands with water and soap or a 70% alcohol-based hand sanitiser and maintaining a social distance.

“These measures are critical to the health of our nation,” Ntshavheni said.

South Africa is to take delivery of its second batch of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine this weekend.

South Africa kick-started its first phase of the vaccination rollout programme using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this month.

To date, 52 000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated.

Healthcare workers were the first to receive the shot of the 80 0000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines which the department has described as a success.

According to the Department of Health, it was tested in a large trial of almost 44 000 people from four continents, of whom 7 000 participants came from South Africa.

The study also provided a good picture of how the vaccine works against the new 501Y.V2 variant, which is dominant in South Africa and currently responsible for around nine in 10 of all COVID-19 infections detected during the second wave.

The vaccines will be available at 17 hospitals throughout the country where teams of researchers and vaccinators will work together to deliver the vaccine to health workers up to 10 hours a day, seven days a week.