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South African medics hope vaccine will stop variant

Health care worker   -  
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South Africa

Healthcare workers at the Ndlovu Care Group in rural north eastern South Africa are eagerly awaiting the first jabs of the Johnson&Johnson vaccine amid a coronavirus variant which is spreading fast across the country.

The Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine has not yet been approved for general use anywhere in the world.

South Africa has purchased nine million doses of the J&J vaccine and 80,000 will be delivered this week to kick off the inoculation campaign, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said last week.

South Africa's regulatory body has approved the J&J for testing purposes and officials have applied for emergency use approval.

56-year-old nurse Asnath Masango has worked for eight years at the Ndlovu Care Group, in the small town of Elandsdoorn in Limpopo province, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Johannesburg.

Masango said she is very much looking forward to receiving the vaccine, adding that sometimes she fears for her health while practicing so many COVID-19 tests.

The clinic offers a wide range of medical care, including the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

When COVID-19 hit, the center quickly ramped up its laboratory to do PCR tests.

It has done more than 40,000 tests in the rural community, including workers at large mines and commercial farms in the area.

Dr. Rebone Maboa is a principal investigator and was hired by the Ndlovu Research Centre last year to oversee the Johnson & Johnson research study.

She said the response from the program has been positive, with the majority of health workers wanting the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

The trial at the Ndlovu Research Centre clinic counts 602 participants with first vaccines given on November 13.

Last week South Africa controversially decided to drop the AstraZeneca vaccine - already purchased, delivered and approved in the country - from the inoculation drive's first phase in which 1.25 million healthcare workers will get the shots.

The last-minute decision was made after a small test showed the AstraZeneca vaccine offered minimal protection against mild to moderate cases of the variant dominant in South Africa.

An impressive 67% of adults said they would definitely or probably take a vaccine if it was available, according to a survey by the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council.

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