South Africa, hard hit by Covid, begins mass vaccinations

Johannesburg, May 17 (EFE).- Mass vaccinations against coronavirus on Monday began in South Africa, the epicenter of the pandemic in Africa.

The government is prioritizing citizens aged over 60, health workers, and those with various risk factors. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu will be among the first people to be inoculated.

Tutu arrived at the Brooklyn Chest Hospital in Cape Town with his wife, Nomalizo Leah, to receive the shot.

More than 80 vaccination locations opened across the country, where doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine purchases in recent weeks are ready to be administered.

“By the end of June we expect to have received 4.5 million doses of Pfizer and 2 million doses from Johnson & Johnson,” said Zweli Mkhize, the South African health minister.

South Africa has about 1.2 million health workers, less than half of whom have been vaccinated in the first phase.

Since mid-February, vaccinations had been limited to some 480,000 health care personnel using doses from Johnson & Johnson after preliminary studies suggested that the AstraZeneca vaccine is ineffective against the South African coronavirus variant.

The slow vaccination roll-out in South Africa has prompted repeated criticism of President Cyril Ramaphosa, casting doubts over his promise to have the population vaccinated by the end of 2021 to achieve herd immunity.

The country’s health ministry is planning to inoculate five million senior citizens by the end of June; however, only one million people have registered to get the vaccine.

Since the start of the pandemic, South Africa has recorded 1.6 million coronavirus cases and 55,210 deaths.

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