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“At first I was a bit terrified of this long needle that was going to be embedded into my arm. But it happened so quickly, so easily. It was just a prick on my flesh and I really did not feel much pain.”

These were the words from President Cyril Ramaphosa who was among the first to get the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, together with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and healthcare workers in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, today.

After taking the vaccine, the President addressed the media saying this was milestone for South Africa.

“This day represents a real milestone for us as South Africans that finally the vaccines are here and they are being administered. I was rather pleased that there were five people who were vaccinated before me and they are health workers.

“It was a joy to watch them to see if anything had happened to them and gladly nothing had happened to them. It means that being vaccinated is a fairly straight forward process.”

Before the arrival of the President, Mkhize witnessed the first health care workers receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The first health worker to be vaccinated was Zoliswa Gidi-Dyosi.

Leading by example, the President encouraged South Africans to take the vaccine, adding that it was safe.

“I would like to invite South Africans to take this up (get vaccinated), so that we can all be safe, so that we all can be healthy.”

The President further thanked Mkhize for all his hard work in procuring the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“I also want to thank the Minister for having worked so hard. Minister Mkhize spent sleepless nights making sure that the change from the earlier vaccines that we acquired, which proved not to be so effective against the variant we have, happened so quickly and so smoothly.

“I can tell you that he spent sleepless nights sending me text messages almost every hour. It was a joy to finally get his text message that ‘President the plane has now left Brussels’ and he showed me photographs of the plane as it was being loaded and every step of the way. I am so glad, he has been so focused and working so hard and thank you Minister.”

Minister Mkhize thanked President Ramaphosa for his support and healthcare workers as they have endured anxiety, panic, and exhaustion in saving the lives of fellow South Africans.

“This must give hope and encouragement to all our people that we have a chance at fighting this pandemic.

“It was an emotional moment as we tracked the movement of the vaccine. There was a sense of pride as everyone got together to save South Africa. Now at last our healthcare workers have some kind of protection as they deal with the pandemic,” Minister Mkhize said.

Referring to the start of the vaccine programme, Minister Mkhize said this is a beginning of a new era.

Minister Mkhize thanked all the provinces for preparing for the rollout of the vaccines.

The vaccination programme commenced today in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape and is expected to be rolled out to other provinces throughout the country.

Prior to the commencement of the vaccination programme, President Ramaphosa this morning said he was pleased with the start of the COVID-19 vaccination programme which starts today.

The vaccine, which has been approved by the South African Health Products Authority arrived at the OR Tambo International Airport in Gauteng on Tuesday night.

The first batch of 80 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being prepared for distribution across South Africa with immediate effect.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been shown in extensive trials to be safe and efficacious, and will protect health care workers from illness and death from COVID-19.

In his hybrid State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country has secured nine million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, of which 80 000 doses arrived in the first batch.

About 500 000 vials of vaccines will follow in the next four weeks.


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