The first 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have left Mumbai for South Africa

February 1, 2021

It will arrive sometime today if all goes well.

The first 1 million doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII) has officially left Mumbai yesterday and is travelling to South Africa, via Dubai. The South African government has shared official images of the shipment being loaded onto the cargo plane on Twitter yesterday. 

If all goes according to plan, the vaccines should arrive in South Africa sometime today. Later in February, a further 500 000 doses of the vaccine is set to arrive in the country. 

The jabs have so far proven to be 70% effective against COVID-19. The vaccines need to be administered to each recipient twice. The second injection needs to be administered to between four and twelve weeks after the initial shot has been received. The South African authorities have suggested that 12 weeks is the ideal model for the second shot and this is the timeframe they will follow.

The government has crafted a phased action plan which will ensure that certain segments of society receive vaccines ahead of others. During the first phase, frontline workers like nurses and doctors will be first in line to get their doses. There are about 1.25 million health workers in the country. This means that the first shipment will not be enough to vaccinate all essential workers right away. Seeing as two jabs are required, the initial batch will only be able to vaccinate about 500 000 healthcare workers.

Receiving the vaccine is entirely voluntary, so the success of the government’s strategy relies on South Africans’ willingness to be vaccinated – for both personal and public benefit.

The question on many South Africans’ minds is when the vaccine will be administered. The short answer is that it could take at least another 14 days before the vaccine rollout takes place. This is because the vaccines firstly need to go through customs and then be transported to allocated cold storage units. After this, an independent laboratory testing process will be taking place to ensure the quality and efficacy of the vaccines. 

All medication that arrives in South Africa must be tested, even if they have international certification, according to SAHPRA. 

Candidates who qualify for vaccines will get SMS notifications regarding where and when they will be receiving their jabs.