South Africans waited in lines hundreds of metres long on Friday to get their COVID-19 shots, after the government made vaccinations available to all adults in order to speed up a rollout plagued by issues and delays.
South Africa has been pummelling by three coronavirus waves, infecting at least 2.65 million people, killing 78,000 people – by far the continent’s highest toll – and wreaking havoc on an already suffering economy with lockdowns and travel restrictions.
On Friday, immunizations were made available to anyone aged 18 to 35. Approximately 8% of South Africa’s 60 million people are fully vaccinated, while 14% have had only one shot.
“I simply wanted to get it over with. I’ve been looking forwards to it for a long time “Lisa Heyneke, a 23-year-old medical student from Johannesburg, said this shortly after receiving her shot.
South Africa’s campaign got off to a sluggish start due to bureaucratic hiccups, a failure to initiate early talks with pharmaceutical companies, and bad luck – it discarded a million AstraZeneca shots based on evidence that they might not work against its dominant variant, only to have that evidence later overturned.
Like other African countries, it also been at the back of a queue favouring rich Western nations.
At Cape Town’s convention centre, the line of people was a mile long, while dozens of cars queued at a drive vaccination venue at converted car racing track in north Johannesburg.
Vaccine reluctance and the difficulties of transporting vaccinations to distant places remain challenges, according to Mary Kawonga, chair of the COVID-19 Advisory committee for Gauteng, the province surrounding Johannesburg, who spoke to Reuters during the event.
According to a Johannesburg University study released on Thursday, vaccine acceptability increased to nearly three-quarters of the population last month, up from two-thirds at the start of the year.
Donald Mgimeti, 45, was unsure at first. Then, in May, he was shocked to learn of the death of a COVID-19 buddy.
“It made me realise how serious this is,” he stated as he rolled down his sleeves following his jab.